Jumping on an accelerating bandwagon, the Louisiana and New Jersey legislatures are considering bills transforming video franchise law. Backed by support from Verizon Communications, New Jersey's legislature has just voted to approve a bill supporting video competition in the state. The bill would allow statewide rather than community-by-community franchises. All areas where Verizon has a central office would be required to offer video options within six years. Meanwhile, the Louisiana legislature is considering similar statewide video franchise legislation. The measure, which is strongly backed by BellSouth, would allow telcos to sidestep the process of negotiating rights of way with individual local governments.
The state's cable companies contend that BellSouth would be getting a "sweetheart deal" if the measure passes. The state's local governments, which also oppose the bill, don't like the idea of ceding rights-of-way and subscriber hook-up policies to the telcos. Worth noting: The U.S. Department of Justice, which apparently sides with the telcos, backs federal regulations stopping local governments from dragging out video franchise negotiations.