The game here, broadly speaking, is TV service. The telecoms want to offer an alternative to cable and satellite TV. These are the same companies that persuaded Congress to rewrite telecommunications law in 1996 to let them compete in the long-distance market. Instead of vying for customers with the leading long-distance companies, however, the regional Bells gobbled up most of them. Meanwhile, the Bells abandoned the fledgling TV services they’d launched in numerous states, saying the effort was too costly.
[...] The prospect of providing more competition to the local cable TV operator is so enticing, it’s tempting to forget all those times the Bells yanked the ball away. They’re certainly right about the need to streamline the franchising process, which can stretch on for years as cities demand a profusion of public-access channels, TV studios and other perks. A better approach would be to create a package of public benefits that telecoms and cable operators would have to provide, tied to the size of the community served.
[...] Still, given the Bells’ track record, lawmakers should be careful not to give telecoms and cable operators carte blanche. With the issue bogging down in Congress, chances are that Sacramento will move on a bill, coauthored by Assembly Speaker Fabian NuÃ±ez (D-Los Angeles), that would allow them into the market for TV services before Washington acts. Here’s hoping that Californians actually get to kick the football.