Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 12:49am
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Amy Schatz Amy.Schatz@wsj.com and Peter Grant email@example.com]
The nation's telecommunications laws -- written 10 years ago, before phone calls and TV programs moved over the Internet -- were scheduled for an overhaul by Congress this year. But with the prospects of a major rewrite dim, the nation's biggest phone companies are pushing for a simpler measure: rules that allow them to bypass local governments for approval to offer television service. At a Senate hearing today, Verizon. Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg and AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre will make a pitch for congressional action on national video-franchising rules, which would allow phone companies to roll out video services to compete with cable providers more quickly. The phone companies want to avoid what cable companies have had to do for years: negotiate with local governments for permission to offer TV service. Phone companies say that it will take years to get such permission, and that local politicians use the process to extract money for community improvements, such as landscaping in parks. The Bells are eager to change the rules so they can better compete with cable companies, which offer Internet phone service and are eroding phone companies' consumer business. Another pressure: investor skepticism about the Bells' likelihood of success in profitably snagging market share from cable and satellite companies, despite spending billions of dollars to lay fiber-optic lines. Telecom executives have found a receptive audience for changing the rules among key House and Senate lawmakers, and in certain states such as Indiana and Virginia, where lawmakers have been open to the idea on the condition that revenue to communities from franchising contracts isn't cut. In addition, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been a quiet ally. Under his direction, the FCC is exploring how it might help the Bells and ease video-franchising rules without congressional involvement.
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AT&T Asks FCC to Streamline Local Cable Franchising System
[SOURCE: TVWeek, AUTHOR: Doug Halonen]
AT&T has asked the Federal Communications Commission to streamline the nation's local cable TV franchising system so phone companies can launch competitive video operations within 30 days of an application. In a filing with the FCC, AT&T said that under the existing system of local franchising regulations, it can take potential competitors years to win a franchise to compete with incumbent cable TV operators.
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