Legislation was introduced today in the Tennessee General Assembly that its sponsors say will provide for more consumer choice in the state's cable-TV market.
The bill, "The Competitive Cable and Video Services Act" (SB 1933 and HB 1421) provides for increased competition in the cable industry in Tennessee by granting a statewide franchise to companies willing to compete against monopoly cable-TV providers, who, over the 10-year period from 1995 to 2005, increased cable prices by 93 percent. In areas of the country where competition has been introduced, cable customers have saved an average of $22.30 per month.
Sponsors include state Senators Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) as well as state Reps. Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta) and Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads).
"More than anything else, this bill is about choice and bringing the future to the residents of all communities throughout Tennessee. Through the facilitation of competition across the state, cable-TV customers statewide will enjoy better service and lower prices," Ketron said.
While allowing companies to receive one statewide franchise from the Secretary of State, the bill is structured to protect the current revenue stream enjoyed by local governments by ensuring the localities' continued authority to collect franchise fees and control rights of way.
"If this bill passes, the door is open for companies to make significant investments in Tennessee," explained Sen. Jackson. "If the bill doesn't pass, that money will go to some other municipality in some other state."
"One of the most important aspects of this effort is that it will encourage companies to accelerate the development of broadband technology for use throughout Tennessee as recommended by the Broadband Taskforce," said Rep. McDaniel.
"The proof of the success of this effort is being reported nationwide," remarked Rep. Curtiss. "There are 11 states that have streamlined their video franchise process to assist the entry of new video competitors, and the residents of those states are saving money and benefiting from competition. We stand here today to continue the fight to bring these same savings to Tennesseans."
Among the states that have already passed similar legislation are North Carolina, South Carolina, California and Texas.
Currently, the effort enjoys the support of a variety of groups statewide, including AT&T, CenturyTel, Knology, Verizon, the 19-member Tennessee Telecommunications Association and the Communications Workers of America (CWA).