WBS: Multichannel News on HB 699

Multichannel news runs a short article on the passage of HB 699. It is always interesting to see what outsiders emphasize about a local issue. Louisianaians have to appreciate the whiff of doubt about the clause in the bill that supposedly prohibits discrimination.

The bill seeks to prevent discrimination in service deployment, based on the average income for an area, but it also said a provider can consider technology issues and construction costs when deciding whether to serve an area. Discrimination complaints are to be directed to the state Attorney General.

In fact, the bill goes considerably beyond making exceptions for technology and construction issues: a provider can use also “commercial limitations” as an excuse. So it’s explicitly legal to cherry-pick the most profitable areas. It’s a legal loophole you could drive a truck through–the law is not meant to prohibit discrimination; it is meant to give a clear definition to the conditions under which discrimination is legal in Louisiana.

Multichannel News is a cable industry magazine, it’s no surprise that goes to a cable rep for interpretation of the bill. But there’s one cable-specific bit that bears watching:

Although the bill would give incumbents the ability to apply for state franchises immediately, McCormick expressed doubt that any current provider would pursue one.

“I know of no one who’s expressed interest,” she said.

Hmmn. That’s odd. If cable providers do not expect to make use of the provisions of the bill why did they support it only after they got included during early senate amendments? Telco entry is gonna hurt them, at least some, and BellSouth being allowed to enter and skim the cream off the cable companies current markets without having to meet the universal build-out requirements embedded in cable’s current contracts with local communities must seem very unfair to the cable guys. What cable gets out of supporting this law has always been opaque, at least in the short term. You’ve gotta wonder what the deeper game is.

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