Day February 7, 2007
J. Scott Christianson:
The Missouri Senate is considering one of the best-written pieces of legislation to come before it in some time: Senate Bill 284, the Missouri Video Franchise Bill. It should be a good bill, considering how much money AT&T spent to write it.
The video franchise bill has something in it for every large telecommunications company: reducing public oversight, eliminating local control, cherry-picking high-profit customers and protection from prying public auditors. It would be wonderful – if it weren’t such a complete betrayal of the public trust.
SB 284’s most important feature is to strip local government of its authority to regulate companies that offer video services. Right now, local cable television companies receive their licenses to operate from the municipalities they serve. Cable TV companies get to use a city’s rights of way for running their lines. In return, local municipalities receive a franchise fee and are provided a few channels for local citizens and government to use, so-called PEG – for public, education and government access – channels. Until now, this arrangement seemed like a reasonable exchange for the huge benefit of accessing city rights of way.