Telecom firms, cities fighting for remote

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published September 1, 2007  | September 2007 issue

In the name of greater competition, legislation is being considered in Wisconsin that would deregulate the cable industry, lifting the requirement that cable and other video providers obtain local franchise licenses in the communities they serve; instead, firms would obtain a statewide franchise through the Department of Financial Institutions.

Though targeted at the cable industry, the bill would also affect other telecom firms like AT&T that are now moving into video services and hoping to roll out so-called triple-play services (video, voice and broadband) statewide rather than having to negotiate agreements with every municipality. A number of states, including Illinois, have approved similar measures and reportedly have better consumer protections than the bill being considered in Wisconsin.

Opponents of the bill also worry about possible effects on public television and local access channels. These channels are not typically profitable for video providers, but have become part of municipal franchise agreements with cable providers. The current version of the bill (as of early August) still requires cable and other video providers to remit 5 percent of their gross receipts to municipalities.

Ronald A. Wirtz