The Missouri General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed legislation that would allow statewide franchising authorization for cable TV competitors. The Missouri House of Representatives voted yesterday 143-4 in favor of the measure, known as the 2007 Video Services Providers Act (SB 284), a revised version of a bill that passed the state senate 32-2 earlier in the month. The legislation must now return to the Senate for final approval. The votes recall the lopsided majority franchise reform legislation received in California last August (33-4 in the Senate, 70-0 in the Assembly) and confirms the bipartisan support video choice and competition have over barriers and regulation. The Missouri bill caps franchise fees at 5 percent, but permits local franchise authorities to impose the same formula for PEG channel support as it does on the incumbent. Incumbents may apply for a statewide franchise when a competitor enters a local market. There is no outright build-out requirement, just the provision that within five years, at least 30 percent of households where service is available must qualify as low-income. The same build-out clause has appeared in the Wisconsin and Illinois bills as well, and may signal a new direction as to how states are approaching the issue. Franchise reform continues its groundswell in the states. Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin are just three of least 12 states that have introduced statewide video franchising legislation. The others include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.