‘A Competitive Alternative is Critical’

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin strongly endorsed video franchise reform Wednesday at TelecomNext, the telecom industry’s major annual trade show. Citing that rates for cable television have steadily grown higher since the 1996 Telecommunications Act has been in place, while the rates in every other area of telecommunications have declined, Martin said the commission will try to address ways to reduce barriers to entry, with “some reasonable limitations” that could be put around what “local franchising authorities can require as new competitors” try to enter new towns or cities across the country, Multichannel News reports.

Martin said he hopes the FCC will address what those “limitations” might be sometime this year. “Trying to make sure that competitive barriers are lowered and that new service providers can come in and provide a competitive alternative is critical and is one of the most important things that the commission can do,” he added. He specifically cited telephone companies, which could get into the provision of multichannel-video services “by the advent of new technologies like IPTV,” the Internet-protocol-based type of television services AT&T is implementing nationwide.

Congress is considering legislation that would create a national video franchise scheme, as are many states. The aim is to speed competition in multichannel video services by standardizing the process as well as eliminate many of the arbitrary demands that local communities place on franchisees.