Monday, June 04, 2007

Make Verizon Pay for Statewide Franchising

In today's Boston Globe, Nolan Bowie, a senior fellow of the Shorenstein Center, has a guest column calling for the defeat of the cable franchising bill that is before the state legislature. Bowie argues, in part, that the bill would unfairly allow Verizon to become a statewide player in the cable business without having to go through the same process that current cable providers had to complete in each municipality. Local control of cable franchising, Bowie says, doesn't take more than a year to complete, and allows cities and towns to extract concessions, usually in the form of cable access channels. Without that leverage, it would cost municipalities more to produce local content.

In addition, Bowie notes that even with new statewide franchising rules, Verizon still only plans to serve 16% of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns. The majority of municipalities in the state will see no benefits from this bill. And in fact, those communities further from Boston would suffer because complaints would now have to be registered with a state agency located there, and not at town hall.

Am I just being hopelessly naive in thinking that there's potential for compromise here? If Verizon wants easier, statewide licensing, why shouldn't we tell them that the price tag is for them to pay their property taxes? I suppose if Verizon thinks that they can get what they want without having to give up anything in return, there's no incentive for them to compromise. I'd hate, however, to see our legislature change the rules for Verizon's benefit and have most consumers get little or nothing in return.

Update: Dan Kennedy has much more at Media Nation. He's against the bill, and has a great amount of detail on the coalition working to stop it.