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Qwest Backs State Franchise Bill

2/14/2007 4:04 AM Eastern

Just days after a Qwest Communications-backed bill failed to escape committee in Colorado, a similar bill to reform cable franchising surfaced in Washington state, also backed by the telco.

The bill, introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Erik Poulsen (D-Seattle), would strip local authorities of their cable-franchising authority and place that task in the hands of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. That agency would have 30 calendar days to approve a statewide franchise for a new provider. Incumbent operators would be bound to the terms of their local agreements until their stated expiration dates.

New providers would have to reserve space for public, educational and government channels and pay support for those channel equivalent to that paid by incumbents. The content would be the responsibility of the local governments.

The bill specifically excludes build-out demands by local governments -- a point seized on by the Broadband Communications Association of Washington. Current rules, in place for 40 years, guarantee quality service to all consumers, not just those in affluent neighborhoods, the association said. It has already rounded up bill opponents from among the state’s mayors and from organizations such as the Urban League.

They pointed to Verizon Communications, which also provides telephone service to areas of the state. That company is negotiating local agreements with governments for its FiOS TV service

“Qwest can already obtain local franchise agreements if it wants to ... changing the rules for one company doesn't make much sense,” said Ron Main, executive director of the cable association.

 

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