Texas TV franchise bill not dead

Marguerite Reardon cnet

A bill in Texas that would allow phone companies to offer television service without negotiating contracts with local governments isn't dead after all. Earlier this week, the Texas state Senate passed a bill during an emergency legislative session that will grant new entrants, namely phone companies, statewide franchises to offer TV service. If SB 21 becomes law, it will allow phone companies to enter the television market without having to negotiate separate contracts with each municipality in the state, as cable companies have long been required to do. A similar bill, which passed the Texas House of Representatives earlier this spring, died during a regular legislative session in May in the state Senate. It was revived in an emergency session, which was called by the state governor. Unlike the original House bill, the new Senate bill creates a statewide franchise, while requiring new entrants such as Verizon Communications and SBC Communications to adhere to many of the same terms that cable companies already have in their contracts with cities. The Senate bill also includes a provision that prohibits service providers from discriminating which neighborhoods or communities they serve based on income. The new measure keeps much of the control over the rights of way in the hands of the cities, whereas the previous House bill did not.