IPTV Franchises Waived on in Texas

The Baby Bells are claiming victory in their efforts to bypass local IPTV franchise requirements in Texas.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 5 into law Wednesday, which allows telecommunications companies to provide cable TV service over their fiber optic networks without going to every community in the Lone Star state.

Before the legislation was enacted, telecom providers needed to garner franchise rights from local communities before providing the service, a process the Bells said takes between six and 18 months.

Officials at SBC applauded the bill’s passage, stating it maintains Texas’ position at the forefront of progressive communications policy and helps its residents at the same time.

“Consumers want and deserve more choices, new technologies and better prices in the TV and video market,” SBC officials said in a statement. “Texas lawmakers recognized that fact when crafting this legislation. New providers are now poised to invest and compete in Texas in order to deliver a next generation video entertainment product to a marketplace sorely lacking adequate competition.”

Officials at Verizon said much the same thing in a statement released Wednesday. The company expects it will be able to pick up the pace of its IPTV deployments in the state and provide its TV fare in the fall.

“Texas state leaders recognized the importance of keeping the Lone Star State at the forefront of our transforming society,” said Steve Banta, Verizon southwest region president, in a statement. “The Texas legislature has built a blueprint other states can use.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been working to create a level playing field in the broadband market for Baby Bells and cable operators in recent years. Last month Kevin Martin, FCC commissioner, said he had a proposal in mind to deregulate DSL , which would free Bells from its requirement to open its network to independent ISPs, a requirement of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The new law will likely find its way into the courts. The Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association (TCTA) said in an August statement, after the Texas state Senate and House passed the bill Aug. 24, that legal challenges can be expected.

“Should this special interest legislation actually become law in Texas, we would expect there to be a number of legal challenges,” Tom Kinney, Time Warner Cable – Austin president and TCTA chairman of the board, said in a statement. “The next step in this process will almost certainly be the courts, where the substantial legal issues contained in this legislation hopefully will be resolved in a more thoughtful way, without the undue influence of hordes of SBC lobbyists trying to sway the outcome in their favor.”

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