The Advocate article does a journeyman job of reporting on the video bill veto, citing points from all sides of the issue; it focuses on the veto and on the reasons for the veto. John Hill, reporting for the Gannett papers, appears to have gotten stuck early on the idea that the real argument was between BellSouth and the cable companies. That was never true and any justification for thinking it was went away after Cox (however tepidly) joined BellSouth in advocating the bill after the cable industry was also given the ability to seek a state franchise. Even though local government opposition was what finally kiled the bill Hill fails to quote any local government representative. Talking only to proponents of the bill–one weak and one strong–results in a story that is pretty distorted.
From the Advocate:
Gov. Kathleen Blanco has vetoed legislation that would have allowed telecommunications companies, such as BellSouth, to get a statewide franchise to deliver television service.
In her veto letter on House Bill 699, Blanco cited concern about whether local governments would end up losing money…
HB699 would have allowed companies to provide cable and video services by getting a 10-year state franchise certificate. Areas that had a home-rule charter before 1974, such as East Baton Rouge Parish, would have been exempt.
That’s a point worth emphasizing. Local Government types emphasize that in areas containing 35-40% of the state’s people (5 parishes and about 29 cities) the AT&T/BellSouth would have still have had to negotiate traditional franchise agreements. In all honesty that includes almost everyplace, except a few wealthy exurban developments in incorporated bedroom communities, that AT&T might conceivably want to get into. The idea that this bill would have facilitated any real competition was never very credible. It was always about prohibiting build-out requirements by local governments. The law, as written, would have prevented even pre-74 charter areas from passing any local ordinances that would have required BellSouth/AT&T to serve the whole community. It was always about cherry-picking the “best” neighborhoods in the biggest cities…any talk about general “competition” was sheer rhetoric.
Widespread cherry-picking and the consequent digital divide conflicts that would have resulted is the bullet this state has dodged.