House Passes Telecommunications Bill; NewsChannel Uncovers How It Could Affect Lubbock - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/23/05

House Passes Telecommunications Bill; NewsChannel Uncovers How It Could Affect Lubbock

How you pay for cable television and who you buy it from may be changing. A bill aimed to give you more choices on where to buy cable television is one step closer to hitting the governor's desk.

Late Monday afternoon, house members gave final approval to what's known as the telecommunications bill. The bill would make it easier for phone companies like SBC and Verizon to sell television service.

NTS Communications began as a long distance carrier in Lubbock more than 20 years ago and they're just now starting to offer customers cable television. We are told this legislation would only help the company to grow its customers and services.

"It's going to affect our ability to get into other areas much easier than we would have otherwise," explains Larry Dennis, Director of Marketing for NTS Communications. He says the pending telecommunications legislation would open a new door to phone companies offering television services.

For the past year, NTS has offered cable subscriptions, mostly in SouthWest Lubbock and Wolforth. Here's how it works: NTS pays the City of Lubbock a franchise fee, meaning NTS can install their services using the city's right of way. But if the bill is passed, Dennis says the company could cancel the city franchise and sign one that's state-wide. "It's going to allow us to go to other places. There are some other areas that we kind of have our eyes on that we kind of think would be good cities for us to be in so we're just continually looking at that," he says.

NTS currently offers video service over fiber-optic networks that allows the company to reach only certain areas in Lubbock, services Dennis says will continue to grow over the next decade. "Our plan is to over-build the entire city," he explains. It's a plan that will make NTS available throughout all of Lubbock. But Dennis says it's the customer who will gain if legislation is passed, since more choices may drive down rates for customers. "For the consumer it should increase competition," he points out.

The bill would also allow phone companies to serve only the areas in a city they choose to serve. Again, the house just passed the bill late this afternoon. It now goes on to the senate

The City of Lubbock uses these franchise fees to pay for road projects but we spoke with Mayor Marc McDougal late Monday afternoon and he's in Austin discussing that very subject, he tells us as of 4 p.m. Monday, the latest version of this bill would allow cities to keep the 5% franchise fee. That's about $3.6 million a year going towards road improvements in Lubbock. Bottom line: Lubbock looses no revenue.

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