Cable franchise bill ready for governor's signature in Minnesota

The closely watched cable TV franchise legislation that offers breaks for competitive providers moving into existing franchise areas in Minnesota has moved through the state House by a 131-0 vote and could be signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty as early as next week. It had already been approved by the Senate.

The legislation is a direct result of legal action now pending in the state Court of Appeals between cable operator Mediacom and the community of Prior Lake over a franchise deal with competitive provider Integra. Mediacom objected when Prior Lake said that a full build out would have been "prohibitively expensive" and gave Integra leeway to build out service in only about 60 percent of the community. Mediacom, which covers about 90 percent of the community, was required to perform a full build out when it received a franchise in 1999.

The legislation takes the side of smaller companies like Integra entering into competition in areas where an incumbent is already entrenched. It "doesn't exactly fix the Prior Lake-Mediacom suit, but it will impact those agreements set forth in the future and consumers in the future can look forward to more choices," said State Rep Michael Beard, the bill's co-author.

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