Sacramento, CA — The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) expressed concern today regarding a compromise reached in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee today on the cable and video deregulation bill, AB 2987, proposed by Speaker Fabian Nuñez. The agreement lets cable companies escape current franchise agreements if the cable providers face competition from a telecommunications company like AT&T or Verizon. As a compromise measure, the Committee agreed to place oversight of the new state franchises for providing cable/video services with the California Public Utilities Commission rather than with the Secretary of State as the bill had previously required.
FTCR said that the Committee’s decision to turn the new state franchise for providers of pay-TV over to the Public Utilities Commission marked an improvement to the legislation, as did agreements to increase fines against cable and video providers and create a grievance process for citizens angered by unseemly utility box placement. FTCR advocates brought a mock five foot by three foot utility box to the Capitol today to demonstrate the unsightly boxes that are expected to be deployed by AT&T if the proposal becomes law.
Consumer advocates also applauded a move by the committee to require telecommunications and cable companies to build out and offer equal services in low-income communities as those offered to other communities and not to allow providers to substitute inferior services in poorer communities. However, FTCR told lawmakers that the group still objects to the plan to remove local control over more than 500 existing franchise agreements between municipalities and cable providers.
“AT&T‘s power grab may have been limited by the Senate Committee today, but it is still deeply troubling for consumers who will lose the power to turn to local elected officials and local franchises when they need to straighten out serious problems with their service or their rates,” said FTCR President Jamie Court. “The Senate still has a long way to go before the proposed state franchise comes close to approximating the consumer protections, equal access requirements and accountability that goes with a system of local franchise control.”
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