According to the Legislative Spotlight:
"A proposal to establish a statewide video franchise, 2007 Assembly Bill 207
, was introduced in the Assembly on March 22. The proposal would repeal state laws allowing municipalities to grant cable franchises and require cable companies to obtain a franchise through the state Department of Financial Institutions. After extensive debate, the Assembly adopted Assembly Substitute Amendment 1
to AB-207. The Assembly passed the amended version of AB-207 on May 9, by a vote of 66-28
. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail, which recommended concurrence.
The companion bill is 2007 Senate Bill 107
. On October 31, the Joint Committee on Finance recommended passage by a vote of 13-1. The Senate passed an amended version of the bill on November 8 by a vote of 23-9
and sent it back to the Assembly for their consideration."
Back in April, we posted current commentary from vested parties, much of which contained some degree of concern - see here
. It isn't difficult to find opposition now either, including:
From the WI St Journal on 10/31/07
: "The 2,200-member Milwaukee local of the Communications Workers of America last month voted to oppose AB 207, even though its parent union supports it. "If we're going to pass a bill here in Wisconsin, why not pass a good bill?" said George Walls, president of CWA
Local 4603 in Milwaukee. Walls said his local could support the bill if it includes significant penalties for companies that don't provide service in all parts of a community and don't quickly provide services after the bill is passed. He also said the bill should include a provision for the state franchise to expire after a period of years, rather than be granted forever."
From the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on 11/9/07
: The state Senate passed
AT&T's cable TV bill late yesterday. Assuming the Assembly agrees to the few noncontroversial amendments the Senate tacked on and the governor signs it into law as expected, this legislation will say a lot about who owns cable television in Wisconsin and what the terms of ownership will be. But it says much more about who owns our state government. The Democracy Campaign just released an analysis
showing that special interest backers of the cable bill gave senators who voted for it 12 times more in campaign contributions than they gave the senators who voted against it. AT&T alone gave 28 times more in campaign donations to senators who voted to approve the legislation. (this information was emailed from the WDC, but the site link above includes more detailed info
From the Wisconsin State Journal on 11/8/07
: "opponents decried the bill, saying it would virtually eliminate regulation of television providers, do nothing to spur competition in most parts of the state and reduce consumer protections and customer service requirements. "This bill does nothing good for Wisconsin, " said Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
, D-Alma. The Senate rejected Vinehout
's amendment that would have replaced AB 207 with a similar bill that passed in Illinois that she said is better for consumers while still promoting competition. She said the Wisconsin bill eliminates local governments ' ability to protect consumers while failing to give the state money to investigate complaints. The bill adds satellite telecommunications companies to existing state consumer regulations."
According to Mayor of Madison Dave C on 11/9/07
: "This proposal eliminates funding for public access programming, awards perpetual video franchises with minimal review, hampers the ability of local communities to control their rights of way, and provides no meaningful consumer protection or regulatory oversight."
According to Mayor of Milwaukee Tom B on 11/9/07
: "the video franchising bill that passed the State Senate last night undermines the protection the City currently has for Milwaukee consumers and taxpayers."
According to the Capital Times on 11/8/07
: "Critics, including Laitman
(Cynthia Laitman, the co-founder of the statewide chapter of TeleTruth
), charge the AT&T-backed bill would dissolve consumer protections, threaten the viability of public access stations and allow telecommunications providers to serve only dense and wealthy parts of the state. The bill has been heavily lobbied by AT&T, whose stable of lobbyists included for a short time Joe Wineke
, the state chairman of the Democratic Party."
According to the Capital Times on 11/10/07
: "As a former Dane County district attorney and Wisconsin attorney general, Gov. Jim Doyle knows that it is wrong for legislators who have accepted campaign contributions from special-interest donors to allow lobbyists associated with those donors to craft legislation. Yet, that is precisely how the cable television re-regulation bill that has now reached his desk came to be. As such, Doyle should not hesitate to veto this corrupt legislation. And the legislators who wrote it and are backing it have taken money from donors linked to the corporations that will benefit most from this atrocious restructuring of the process to favor the industry that is supposed to be regulated rather than the consumers it is supposed to serve. If enacted, the quality of cable service in Wisconsin will decline. Cable bills will go up. Rural areas and inner cities will be denied access to technological advances. The digital divide will grow wider. And corporations will know that if they spread campaign money and lobbying influence around in the right way, they can game the system in Wisconsin."
From to Capital Times on 10/31/07
: "Backed by AT&T as part of a move to consolidate control over communications in Wisconsin, the legislation -- Senate Bill 107 -- was written in consultation with industry interests with the purpose of undermining consumer protections, threatening public access channels, eliminating the ability of communities to establish basic standards for cable service, and decreasing the likelihood that new communications technologies will be offered to communities throughout the state. The supposed regulations in this bill are riddled with loopholes that are designed to allow communications conglomerates to deny quality service to low-income and rural areas of Wisconsin."
From the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities on 10/29/07
: "The bill would do significant damage to local government and public access to local government activities, while doing nothing to accomplish the goals of video competition and lower video rates that we all share."In addition, according to state records, the following organizations and groups have registered in opposition of the bill
Council 11, Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, Citizens Utility Board, City of Madison and Milwaukee, Dane County Cities & Villages Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Inc, Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alliance of Cities Inc, Wisconsin Association of Public, Educational and Government Access Channels, Inc., Wisconsin Association of School Boards Inc, Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services, Wisconsin Counties Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG
), Wisconsin Towns Association.Conclusion:
The notion that this bill must be passed immediately is an illusion. Fast tracking this bill is bucking the responsibility
of ensuring that the best decisions are being made. The opposition to the current bill is too great from too many important components of Wisconsin society to push through the flawed legislation.
Labels: Media, Policy