Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Telecom Debate Has Started

It is about 6:15 on a Tuesday evening and the first formal debate on the "Statewide Telecommunications Franchise" Bill has just concluded. All of the interested parties to include Comcast, Orange Cable, Broadweave, Qwest, AT&T, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Department of Commerce and the Association of Counties all sat around the table to discuss the intricacies of municipal franchise arrangements. As can be imagined, with a group of this size, very little was accomplished but at least we have staked out our proverbial "territory". Senator Bramble will be hosting several of these forums in the near future to determine if a compromise position can be attained -- We will see where that goes.

The ULCT has consistently held a policy position to ensure that all communities have telecommunications and cable options for their citizenry. This tenet is often gained through effective local franchising arrangements that ensure fair telecommunications competition and basic service to all residents within the city.

The major issue in franchising deals with local government “build-out” requirements in some cities and towns. These franchising arrangements require incumbent and new telecommunications providers to provide, or have a plan to provide, telecommunications services on a city-wide basis. While not all cities require build-out, some cities feel that these requirements are critical to ensuring service to all residents within the city while maintaining a fair and competitive telecommunications market.

Since the Utah League of Cities and Towns has been consistently involved in telecommunications issues ranging from the transition from the old franchise arrangements to the new Telecom Tax as well as issues such as UTOPIA and iProvo, we would like to continue to be a part of the dialogue on this important issue.

Our basic philosophy is to maintain local government autonomy on franchising arrangements so that we may effectively ensure a fair and comprehensive telecommunications environment in our communities.

We will be providing consistent updates on this issue as the legislature continues.