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Witnesses Set for Franchise Hearing

The Senate Commerce Committee has released the witness list for its video franchising hearing Jan. 31.

Congress and the FCC are trying to decide whether and/or how to modify the multichannel video franchising process to speed the rollout of broadband service, an avowed priority of the Bush administration.

Telcos--most agressively Verizon--have been pushing for statewide franchises and even a national franchise that will allow them to bypass time-consuming local negotiations in their efforts to roll out multichannel video and broadband service in competition to cable.

Scheduled to weigh in with the committee: Ivan Seidenberg, CEO, Verizon; James D. Ellis, senior executive VPO and general counsel, AT&T; Thomas M. Rutledge, COO, Cablevision Systems; Brad Evans, COO, Cavalier Telephone; Lori Panzino-Tillery, president, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors; Anthony T. Riddle, executive director, Alliance for Community Media; Gene Kimmelman, senior director of public policy, Consumers Union; Gigi Sohn, president, Public Knowledge.

The committee has yet to release the witness list for a hearing the same day on access to video content, which is expected to focus on the ability of independent cable networks and sports programmers to secure carriage.

Some independents are pushing the FCC to put access conditions on the divvying up of Adelphia's cable systems between Comcast and Time Warner.