SPRINGFIELD -- By a vote of 113-0, the Illinois House Thursday approved a measure that supporters say will heighten competition in the cable-television market and eventually save money for consumers
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
SPRINGFIELD -- By a vote of 113-0, the Illinois House Thursday approved a measure that supporters say will heighten competition in the cable-television market and eventually save money for consumers.
Senate Bill 678, which makes it easier for telephone companies to offer video services that compete with cable TV companies, moves to the Senate for consideration. Before becoming law, it must pass there and be signed by the governor.
A key provision of the legislation would set up a new statewide franchise-authorization process, to be administered by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
AT&T, a lead supporter of the bill, said the existing franchise-authorization process is unwieldy because it requires cable and video providers to negotiate franchise agreements with every municipality they want to serve.
In recent years, technological advancements have meant that cable TV companies and traditional telecommunications companies like AT&T increasingly step on each other’s turf. Both, for instance, offer high-speed Internet service.
“You’re going to see more and more telephone companies get into this (video) field because they’re losing customers every day to cable companies,” said Rep. James Brosnahan, an Evergreen Park Democrat who sponsored the legislation. “As a matter of survival, I think these telephone companies are going to have to start offering video services just to stay competitive.”
Brosnahan said he believes the new arrangement would result in more competition, which would lead to lower rates and better options for consumers.
During debate, Democratic Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates lauded the legislation but warned: “Our constituents need to understand that competition is not going to happen overnight.”
If enacted into law, the measure would expire in 2013. Lawmakers want to track whether competition actually develops in the cable industry, Brosnahan said.
Earlier during the General Assembly’s spring session, the telecommunications measure — then known as House Bill 1500 — attracted opposition from several groups, including the Cable Television and Communications Association.
But on Thursday, association spokesman Gary Mack said the group no longer opposes the bill.
“This bill is what it is, I guess, and we’ll see what happens now,” he said.
“It is a highly competitive market already,” Mack added, citing the growing influence of satellite television. “I really don’t think that having the ability of AT&T to get into the market is going to do anything in terms of price.”
Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.