Just as public libraries opened a world of learning to the masses in the 1800s, advanced technology is today expanding educational opportunities.
Technology is the great equalizer in our society — information is available via computer, an educational cable channel, a distance-learning class, a long-distance medical consultation or countless other advanced communications options. It is also a means to greater opportunity and prosperity.
As such, government should do all it can to increase fair competition among companies that provide these services.
Only through true competition will consumers win, with options to tap into new services and innovations, all at lower rates.
Texans, however, will lose under a new state law, Senate Bill 5 — the so-called competition plan laid out for communications-services providers.
This law is so unfair to both Texans and service providers that cable operators — through the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association — have sued to stop its implementation.
The TCTA believes there are legal and constitutional reasons that this law shouldn't remain on the books. More importantly, however, we feel strongly that this law will harm Texans by stifling competition.
We argue that any law should treat Texans equally and treat competitors equally. Equal treatment is not only fair and just, but it's necessary if true competition — which benefits consumers — is to flourish.
Texans are not treated equally under SB 5 because all are not guaranteed access to fiber-optic wiring brought to a service area by a telephone company.
Telephone providers are able to pick and choose the neighborhoods in which they offer new services. This could divide a community into technology “haves” and “have nots.” It could close the door on the most disadvantaged residents who both want and need the educational opportunities that technology can provide.
While cable operators will rightfully continue to serve all who live in their franchise areas, consumers would lose the benefits provided by competition.
Competitors aren't treated equally under SB 5, either. Even though they are selling the same products, they won't be held to the same rules of doing business. Telephone companies will be held to less-strict regulations, clearly giving them an advantage.
Why do telephone companies need special favors? They didn't need SB 5 to enter the video market — they already had that option. They chose not to take it because they didn't like the terms.
LET A JUDGE DECIDE
Don't misunderstand — cable operators welcome increased competition. We're already competing with satellite, phone companies and other providers. But we believe the playing field should be level. Under SB 5, it isn't.
The TCTA has confidence that an impartial federal judge will rule on our lawsuit based on the facts, taking existing federal law and state and federal constitutional issues into account. It's what all Texans deserve.
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