July 13, 2005

Governor Perry adds telecom to the special session

Yesterday, Governor Perry added telecom reform to the special session.

Senator Fraser's telecom bill, SB21, includes:
* ending price caps on local phone rates in midsize and large cities by 2006 and smaller cities by 2007.
* requiring dominant phone companies to reduce fees they charge for access to long-distance lines
* allowing electric utilities to deliver broadband service over electric powerlines
* statewide franchise for video services, allowing the phone companies to get into the video market
* forbidding broadband network providers from blocking a customer's attempt to access an internet service, with many exceptions for DMCA, protecting network facilities, or "business reputation".

According to the Austin-American Statesman, Senator Fraser, the chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, and Representative King, the chairman of the House Regulated Industries Committee, have agreed on the content of Senator Fraser's bill, and the House is expected to pass a substantially similar bill.

Telecom bills did not pass during the regular session as a result of large differences between the House and Senate versions that were not resolved in conference committee.

The bill is opposed by cities because of the statewide cable franchies for video companies. Mayors of six cities, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, Plano, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin have written a letter opposing the telecom bill.

Their reasons include:
* redlining. The bill allows phone companies to offer video service only in wealthy neighborhoods, unlike cable companies which must serve the entire area.
* harm to city budgets. Cable franchisees pay fees to cities. The bill carves a hole in city budgets, according to the Mayors.
* the cost of relocating utilities.

The bill does not address municipal broadband. But having the bill in play raises the risk of amendments, as we saw in the regular session. And bill as it is written is harmful to cities.

Please contact your legislator and urge them to not rush to pass a telecom bill that harms cities.

Posted by alevin at July 13, 2005 11:32 AM

Thanks for the update. BTW, you've got a quotation mark mismatch in your first URL - the provisions of Sen. Fraser's bill are not displaying as a result.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner at July 14, 2005 07:21 AM