Texas lawmakers ponder eliminating franchise fees

The cable-satellite franchising fight has arrived on the steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin with a Texas-sized twist; some legislators are advocating eliminating franchise fees altogether, meaning neither cable nor telco nor satellite would be required to pay anything to local municipalities.

Cable companies usually argue that satellite providers should pay the same franchise taxes they pay for the right to do business in communities throughout the state. In Texas cable pays a right-of-way fee, pays extra for tearing up roads and other infrastructure and tosses in a 2 percent local sales tax for consumers. Nationwide 10 states have sided with cable that satellite should bear some of this same burden.

Texas, though, likes to do things differently and the House Ways and Means Committee is in the midst of considering something that is radical to its very core. "My sense is, let's just eliminate the franchise fees," said state Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston. The idea was semi-endorsed by free market advocate Tom Giovanetti, who did add a big whoa by telling legislators, "You will bring local hell down on your heads."

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