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Franchise-Reform Bill Withdrawn in Tennessee

Citing opposition from local governments, the sponsor of a Tennessee bill to reform cable franchising is withdrawing the legislation.

The bill could be resubmitted next year, but sponsor Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) told AP he wouldn't push the issue of reform unless he sensed a "change of attitude" by city and local officials who fought the bill. Cable incumbents had formed a coalition with the local governments to fight the bill.

The bill appeared to be moving forward Wednesday, as it was the subject of a House Commerce Committee debate, but representatives there expressed grave concerns about the bill, noting that the text had changed substantially from its introduction.

Rep. Ulysees Jones (D-Memphis) said he was troubled by the lack of build-out for AT&T, the major backer of the bill; the lack of consumer protection in the bill; and the fact that the legislation imposed operating guidelines on existing cable companies.

The committee chairman, Rep. Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta), took note of the more than 30 House amendments proffered to the bill and indicated that he wanted to change the legislation, too.

The Wednesday version would have assigned cable oversight to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, which already deals with companies such as AT&T as a telephone regulator. Curtiss said his amendment suggested creating a 15-member authority, staffed by city and county officials, to take up cable issues.