Both the Detroit Free Press (New era arrives for cable customers) and the Detroit News (Senate clears way for cable TV reform) have articles on Michigan’s new cable franchising bill which has passed the House and Senate and appears to be headed for a quick signing by Governor Granholm. It’s a very complex issue, but at its simplest, the new regulations will replace locally negotiated cable TV franchises with a uniform set of state rules.
On the plus side, the measure is expected to increase consumer choice as telcos and others move to offer cable TV (and probably also increased internet bandwidth). The downside is that the new regulations don’t require service of rural and urban low-income markets which could lead to a greater digital divide in Michigan.
Two weeks ago, telecommunications giant AT&T promised to invest over $600 million in infrastructure and create 2000 jobs over three years (including 1200 in 2007), which might make the savvy reader ask “Why?”
The answer, according to a pundit at MyDD.com is that the telephone companies are seeking to make an end-around the soon-to-be Democratic Congress and secure franchising without a corresponding guarantee of Net Neutrality. According to SavetheInternet.com, an advocacy group, Net Neutrality ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing internet companies from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.
The whole issue has started a modest firestorm in the state and national progressive & techie media surrounding what the Governor should (and could) have done. Michigan Liberal carries a staement from the Governor and also a letter to Google’s Larry Page that ends:
In the interest of taking incremental steps towards improving competition and services for Michigan consumers, it’s best that the Legislature complete work on video franchising this year. I look forward to working with Google and others next year to ensure continued open access to the internet for all Michigan residents.
Probably more on this issue than anyone but a total geek would ever care to read…
- You can visit Michigan 6456 (the web site) to view Michigan 6456 (the bill) and also tons of compiled coverage on the issue.
- MyDD coverage included Why Jennifer Granholm Really Is Helping Destroy the Internet and (part 2) Governor Granholm Selling Out the Internet? The gist of the argument is that state level officials aren’t able to withstand pressure from corporate lobbies and are losing the Net Neutrality battle.
- Capital Viewpoint has links to allow you to watch the debate and also notes that this was an issue which everyone (in Michigan and out) could have paid more attention to earlier.
- Matt at Michigan Liberal looks at what happened on Net Neutrality and concludes that AT&T brought more heat than Google and others.
UPDATE: (Dec 14, 2006) Check out this Jack Lessenberry interview with MSU telecommunications Professor Steven Wildman about the what this law will mean for consumers and the industry.