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Free Stater Weighs In

The Free State Foundation, a free market think tank in Maryland, has increasingly been weighing in on communications issues.

The latest e-mailed commentary from tank thinker Randolph May suggests that whatever Congress does or doesn't do, telcos may yet get their franchise reform one state at a time.

It will be ironic if it turns out that thewas the telcos get relief from what they say is a time-consuming process of seeking franchises on a locality-by-locality basis is to have to get the reform on a state-by-state basis, but telcos would rather do that than get a national reform bill loaded down with Democrat-backed provisions on build-outs and network neutrality.

The other route, of course, is the FCC, which may well give them much of what they want as a Christmas present Dec. 20, when it is scheduled to vote on possible franchise process "fixes" to insure that the city-by-city slog isn't further impeded by local authorities with contracts loaded, like Christmas Trees, with extra ornaments and goodies.

Bu enough about me.

Here's what May had to say:

"Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm is poised to sign a new video franchise reform law just passed by the legislature.

"By establishing uniform requirements for local franchises, the new regime presumably will speed up the ability of telephone companies like AT&T and Verizon to obtain the authorization they need to begin offering video services in competition with cable and satellite operators. More competition is good for consumers.

"And the bill apparently allows incumbent cable providers to opt into the new, less burdensome regime. That makes sense as well. In today’s ever-more competitive broadband environment, as a matter of equity, cable operators should not be subjected to disparate regulatory burdens.

"It is encouraging that Michigan is now the 11th state to enact a statewide video franchise reform law designed in one way or another to speed up the franchise process so that local authorities are not roadblocks to competition. Michigan joins Texas, Virginia, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey, and California.

"While I have advocated in congressional testimony adoption of federal legislation to amend the Communications Act to establish a national franchising regime as a means of reforming the franchising process, the prospects for such legislation now seem dim.

"So it is welcome news that the states have become leaders in this reform effort. As more states pass video reform legislation, the pressure will grow on still others to follow suit, so as not to be left behind.

"The laggards will be leery of losing out on the telcos’ investment—and the jobs that accompany the investment—in new networks in states where the opportunities for quick, less burdensome marketplace entry are most promising."

By Mostly Randolph May with a little John Eggerton