Cable Battle Brewing

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

A battle is brewing at the state Capitol over a controversial plan that could mean lower cable rates. Supporters unveiled the proposal at a news conference Wednesday.

The legislation would let telephone companies compete with cable operators for your TV service. The bill’s sponsors say similar legislation in about a dozen other states saves consumers about 30 bucks a month on their cable bills.

One of the sponsors is Rep. Trey Traviesa of Brandon. “The benefits of competition in cable are undeniable and this legislation presents a big win for Florida. The consumer wins with more choices, lower rates and better service. We estimate that on the order of 400 to 600 million dollars will be saved by Florida consumers in the first year. That’s a giant hit to the average family pocketbook.”

But city governments that currently regulate the franchise agreements call the bill (HB 529) a power grab by the phone companies. The cities say squeezing local government out of the regulatory process could mean worse customer service and a loss of cable companies that customers like.

Several community activists have scheduled a news conference for Thursday saying the measure would also allow new providers to “cherry-pick,” offering their best service in some areas while avoiding minority and low-income neighborhoods altogether.

The bill is up for its first House committee hearing Thursday afternoon.

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