Media Advisory: Statement on Passage of Video Franchise Reform in Florida

Published May 3, 2007

(Chicago, IL — May 1, 2007) Earlier today, the Florida House of Representatives sent a sweeping video franchise reform measure, the Consumer Choice Act of 2007, to Gov. Charlie Crist for signature. The following statement is from Steven Titch, The Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for IT and telecom policy and managing editor of Info Tech & Telecom News. You may quote directly from this statement or contact Titch directly at 281/571-4322, email [email protected], for further comment.

For further information about The Heartland Institute, please contact Harriette Johnson, media relations specialist, at 312/377-4000, email [email protected].

“Florida cable TV consumers will win big now that state legislators have passed a law that allows new cable TV entrants to apply for a statewide franchise to offer service anywhere in the state. The bill now awaits Gov. Charlie Crist’s signature, expected this week.

“The new law creates a universal statewide franchise fee so that cable and video service providers no longer have to enter into time-consuming negotiations for separate franchising contracts with every local unit of government. That means a choice in cable companies for more Florida residents much sooner than otherwise would have been the case.

“With passage of the reform measure, legislators acknowledged what residents of Tampa, Sarasota, and Manatee County know already. In advance of franchise reform, Verizon has introduced several tiers of cable and Internet service, using the latest fiber-to-the-home technology, in those areas. Its cable rivals, Comcast and Bright House Networks, responded by offering discounts, adding features, and boosting Internet speeds.

“Now all Floridians can look forward to lower prices, more choices, and the benefits of new technology. Fears of red-lining and ‘cherry-picking’ have proved unfounded. Telephone companies are deploying services throughout all demographic brackets. In some cities, such as Ft. Wayne, Indiana, lower-income neighborhoods are being wired for competitive cable service before the wealthier neighborhoods, mainly because there is greater demand for economical cable and Internet services that the former regulated cable regime failed to deliver.

“With the passage of video franchise reform, Florida joins a national trend, becoming the tenth state to acknowledge the price and service benefits that derive from competition and a level playing field for service providers.”