Rep. Barton favors telecoms entering TV market

U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) released draft legislation that favors telecoms entering the TV market by allowing a national franchise system. Barton predicted that legislation making it easier for the phone companies to get into the pay TV business will be signed into law soon: "I'd say the odds are 2-to-1 the president is going to sign a bill this year." He doesn't expect any amendments to win approval during a House telecommunications subcommittee vote on the bill expected to take place next week, or during the subsequent committee vote that he predicted would be held soon thereafter.

The proposal, which "also allows cable companies to get a franchise under the same national franchise terms if a competitor enters the market with a national franchise or when their current franchise expires," has been opposed by Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) but has been endorsed by Bobby Rush (D-IL). Barton said, "We're going to get a lot of Democrats on board." Dingell is questioning whether AT&T needs a federal video-franchising law when the company is insisting that its Project Lightspeed video service relies on a technology exempt from all traditional cable rules, including local franchising. Last week, the FTTH Council endorsed legislation in four states--Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, and New Jersey--aimed at streamlining local cable TV franchising rules. Recently Texas, Indiana and Virginia have passed video franchise reform bills.

For more on this development:
- read this article from TV Week
- check out this MultiChannel article

PLUS: Read the interesting reactions to a blogger's view that telcos should pay Google for making their network valuable. Blog