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Phone Companies Fighting For TV Access
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2006 04:32:47 -0500
Begin forwarded message:
From: Randall <rvh40 () insightbb com>
Date: April 1, 2006 12:17:34 AM EST
To: Dave <dave () farber net>, Dewayne Hendricks
<dewayne () warpspeed com>, Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>, cyberia
<CYBERIA-L () LISTSERV AOL COM>
Subject: Phone Companies Fighting For TV Access
Saturday, April 01, 2006 at 12:15 AM EST
Phone companies battle for TV access
By Jonathan E. Kaplan
The effort by the major telephone companies to pump television
programming into consumers' homes over the companies' own networks has
become a politicized issue for lawmakers facing reelection.
TV4US, a coalition of 30 companies and interest groups led by AT&T and
the National Association of Manufacturers, is pressing selected members
of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support franchising
TV4US is paying for newspaper advertisements in the congressional
districts of Reps. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Lee
Terry (R-Neb.), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Jay
Inslee (D-Wash.), all of whom sit on the Commerce Committee, said Peter
Arnold, the group's executive director.
In Washington, D.C., and Michigan, TV4US has run advertisements on
television, and it has run print ads in Capitol Hill publications
including The Hill. (TV4US's website is at www.wewantchoice.com.)
The advertisements encourage voters to ask their lawmakers, over
cable-industry objections, to support a national franchising law that
would let telephone companies offer television programs without having
to negotiate one-at-a-time franchising agreements with municipal
governments. Proponents of a national franchising law argue that by
opening up the national market in one fell swoop it would promote
competition and drive down prices.
None of the lawmakers targeted by TV4US faces a competitive race.
Few lobbyists expect Congress to pass legislation this year because the
franchising issue forces lawmakers to choose between the cable and
telephone industries, picking winners and losers. But postponing a
choice lets lawmakers play the cable and telephone industries off each
other to rake in campaign contributions, some on K Street suggest.
Given the intensity of the rivalry between the industries, a telecom
lobbyist said, the scenario is "a dream match-up" for lawmakers'
"They can milk this through the year," he said. "It's the oldest parlor
game in D.C. to play industries with deep pockets against each other."
In the D.C. area, Comcast Cable refused to run a TV4US advertisement,
Arnold said. Comcast is not obliged to run advertisements for
Lawmakers have reason to be concerned about the cost of cable TV. In
October 1992, just before the November election, the House and Senate
voted to override a veto by President George H.W. Bush of a bill that
clamped down on cable rates. The overwhelming defeat, amid whooping and
hollering in the House, furthered the image of a weakened president.
Bill Clinton went on to win the presidential election.
Cable companies strongly oppose a national franchising law and remain
adamant that the former Bell companies should reach agreements the same
way they did - one at a time with local authorities. They fear that the
phone companies would be allowed to "cherry pick" by offering service
only where it is profitable.
Several lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee who face reelection
this year have accepted campaign money from both cable and phone
companies. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Conrad Burns
(R-Mont.) and George Allen (R-Va.) have accepted contributions from
AT&T's, Verizon's and Comcast's political action committees.
Some telecom lobbyists dismiss the idea of a scenario in which lawmakers
stall legislation to swallow up more campaign cash. They point out that
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, proposed a national franchising bill earlier this week and
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee,
has spoken favorably about considering a similar bill.
"The outlook seems to be improving, and Stevens has repeatedly said and
announced to his colleagues that he would have a telecom bill after
Easter. That is promising," another telecom-industry lobbyist said.
The lobbyists said that, given the limited time, if a bill emerged from
the Senate it would be brought to the floor quickly.
The cable industry appears to be taking a wait-and-see attitude, as
momentum is not on its side, especially in an election year. Some
states, such as Virginia, Texas and Indiana, already have passed laws
letting phone companies bypass negotiations with local governments. In
Kansas, the House and Senate passed franchising legislation, which the
governor is expected to sign into law.
Barton's bill caught the attention of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.),
who lavished praised on his proposal in a statement Monday, saying,
"Competition drives down prices and encourages innovation."
Hastert thanked Barton and Rush "for putting consumers first as we
prevent outdated regulations from stunting the growth of new pay-TV
services and drive down costs by giving people more choice."
"The people who still support George Bush are the same people who
believe Adam and Eve rode to church on the backs of dinosaurs". - SNL
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- Phone Companies Fighting For TV Access David Farber (Apr 02)