State passes cable competition bill

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published March 1, 2008  | March 2008 issue

Television fans in the state are expected to reap the rewards of a new law that deregulates cable television by allowing the state to issue franchises for telecommunication firms to offer services anywhere in the state.

Previously, such television franchise agreements were the purview of cable companies and local governments. The law is intended to ease local entry for new telecom operators to compete for customers.

The law is not without its critics, most of whom point out that local access channels will likely be eliminated with state-wide charters because local franchise agreements typically required such offerings.

Gov. Jim Doyle also vetoed items in the original bill in an effort to reinforce consumer protection. One line-item veto creates the requirement that providers serve at least 30 percent of low-income customers in a market within a three-year window. Another veto will help protect local governments by allowing them to charge a fee to companies that need to use or install equipment on public land.

Ronald A. Wirtz