Bill Would Allow Telecomm Businesses To Compete with Cable Television
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph V. Doria, Jr., which would amend the State’s Cable Television Act to allow telecomm companies and public utilities that provide for the transmission of video programming to compete in the television service market was unanimously approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee today, after going back before the Committee to consider Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee amendments made on Thursday.
“This is a big win for the consumers of New Jersey, because now, we’ll have meaningful competition which will lower the price of television broadcast services in the Garden State,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson. “The cable industry basically controlled TV transmisson for a long time, because they were the only game in town with the technology to provide high quality TV to New Jersey customers. But advances in broadband technology have made it possible for other companies to get in the TV business, and in a fair and open marketplace, that’s going to translate to dollars saved for New Jersey cable TV subscribers.”
The bill, S-192, would allow telecommunications companies or public utilities providing television service to apply for statewide franchise agreements to offer services throughout the State. The bill would require television service providers to have “wire centers” or data-line transfer stations, in every county seat within six years of approval of a statewide franchise, as well as any municipality with a population density of 7,111 people per square mile. Service would gradually expand out from the initial wire centers, until the point where New Jersey residents would be able to choose between local cable providers and an alternate course for television services.
Assembly Committee amendments, approved by the Committee, would level the playing field between cable companies and telecomm companies when it comes to receiving a statewide franchise, and clarify the rules and regulations as set forth by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on franchise agreements for television service providers.
“Today we’re one step closer to real competition when it comes to the television service providers in the Garden State,” said Senator Doria. “By giving telecomm companies entry into the market, we can let the values of a free market begin to take hold, and put downward pressure on cable rates for cable subscribers. New Jerseyans will soon be able to choose the best plan that fits their families’ needs.”
Senator Doria noted that cable television reform would set into motion a courtship that would end up lowering skyrocketing cable rates, increasing service, and making television service providers vie for contracts with local customers.
“Telecomms are going to come to the table with the best possible deal for consumers, and cable’s either going to be dragged — maybe willingly, maybe kicking and screaming — into a new era of customer service and price control, or they’ll be left behind,” said Senator Doria. “This bill has substantial benefits built in, not just for those who opt for the new telecomm-based TV service, but for customers across the board in the Garden State. The telecommunications industry is ready to step forward, and the ultimate winner will be the New Jersey consumer, who will reap the benefits of competition.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.