Explaining Cable Legislation

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The bill is being debated by a state senate committee, where opponents are trying to convince senators it's a bad idea for consumers.

It was already passed in the state House.

The bill would allow telephone companies to negotiate contracts with the state to offer IP cable service over phone lines, rather than negotiate with each municipality individually.

Cities argue it means less oversight and fewer or no public access channels. Municipalities could also lose the franchise fees they negotiate with cable companies.

Currently, cable is only provided by standard cable companies--by running cable lines under ground--or by satellite. Municipalities think telephone companies should have to negotiate since they also run service through lines.

The cable companies argue that would take too long, and competition would benefit customers by reducing rates.

MSU Professor of Telecommunications, Steve Wildman, cautions that rates may or may not change. There are, he says, still inherent costs to programming.

It's also not clear how quickly IP service might be available. AT&T pledged Thursday to add 2,000 jobs and invest $620 million dollars in Michigan to bring it as quickly as possible.