Controversial Cable law goes thru Legislature by Mitch E. Perry03/22/07 Mitch E. Perry
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A controversial proposal to open up Florida’s Cable TV market to increased competition was discussed in a House Committee today.
The Consumer Choice Act of 2007 would allow new cable competitors – most likely telephone companies – to enter the market by signing a single statewide cable contract.
Under current law, companies have separate contracts with more than 450 cities and counties in the state.
But there are many critics of the bill, who say it is fundamentally anti-consumer.
The bill’s sponsor in the House is Brandon Republican Trey Traviesa. He rejects that
Argument (roll tape#1 o.q.”pro-consumer bill”)
But an editorial in Wednesday’s St. Petersburg Times blasted Traviesa’s proposal, chastising him for saying that government has ‘no place’ telling private companies where to put their infrastructure. But Traviesa says the Times doesn’t know what its talking about (roll tape#2 o.q.”all owned by private companies”)
The Florida Cable industry is against the bill, as are local cities and counties. Tampa Democratic Political consultant Vic DiMaio also works as a lobbyist in Tallahassee. He is not working for anybody against the bill, but says he’s had the chance to review it, and thinks it’s a bad deal for consumer (roll tape#3 o.q.” with their budget”)
And DiMaio says there is a risk that public access channels could go off the air if the Cable Consumer Act goes thru (roll tape#4 o.q.”will be eliminated”)
The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association has been running television ads on local cable stations in Florida urging citizens to vote no, saying the cable companies would be able to decide where to offer their business – in effect, calling it discriminatory.
Bill Sponsor Trey Traviesa bristles at that accusation (roll tape#5o.q.”the reality of the situation”)
Political consultant Vic DiMaio says he wouldn’t call it discrimination, but says the phone companies going into cable have been accused of ‘cherry picking’ wealthier communities in the recent past when they offered cable services (roll tape#6 o.q.”regular phone service’)
To help guarantee passage, a provision was added to the bill last week that will stop the final part of a 3 phase telephone rate increase authorized in 2003…But Political consultant Vic DiMaio says citizens should be wary of that provision (roll tape#7 o.q.”up and up”) The Associated Press reports that under the 2003 law, ending the rate increase would allow phone companies to ask the Public Service Commission for further deregulation. After the bill gets thru the House, it moves to the Senate.