Saturday, November 12, 2005

Gimme the MONEY. GIMMEE!!!


A Republican congresswoman has introduced a bill which would allow competition between cable systems at the local level.

It would also allow cable companies to stop paying the "franchise fee" (read TAX) to the local government bloodsuckers. C'mon, let's face it: what the hell did the local yokels really DO to 'earn' that money from Time-Warner?

In any case, Carol Lombardi of Waukesha immediately saw the impending danger (less MONEY!!!!!) as reported in the Milwaukee JS

Many leaders in municipalities in southeast Wisconsin and elsewhere say they are worried they will lose the franchise fees they collect from cable companies if the legislation passes.

The fees amount to thousands of dollars a year for some local governments and, in the case of Milwaukee, almost $3.7 million expected in 2006, for allowing cable providers use of public rights of way.

The Video Choice Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would eliminate local franchise agreements, a move she contends will drive down the prices consumers pay for cable TV.

Blackburn thinks the franchise agreements create a monopoly. Current law that mandates franchise agreements serves "as a barrier to competition" and prevents "new technologies from entering the market," she told her U.S. House colleagues this year.

Many communities have agreements with a single provider, she noted. The Video Choice bill would increase competition, allowing new competitors, including other cable companies, telephone companies and Internet providers, into the cable TV market, Blackburn said.
But local elected officials, who say they support increased competition, are encouraging their federal representatives to oppose Blackburn's bill and similar legislation, including a bill in the U.S. Senate that could nationalize franchising.

Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi said municipal leaders are worried about two things: the loss of the franchising fees and the loss of local control in determining who provides cable service.
The revenue from franchise fees is crucial to municipalities, Lombardi said, especially now that local governments are under a spending cap imposed by state lawmakers.

Lombardi, who leads the Waukesha County Municipal Executives group, sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl and U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., urging them to vote against any legislation that would remove local control over franchising fees.

"The financial constraints that we, at local government, . . . are facing is very serious," Lombardi wrote.

Waukesha's franchise fee with Time Warner Cable generates about $600,000 a year.

Menomonee Falls will get about $232,000 this year through its agreement with Time Warner.
Its village president, Rick Rechlicz, said he doesn't appreciate "big government" sticking its nose in local government's business.

"At a time when we're trying to be fiscally sound, they want to eliminate a non-tax revenue item," he said. [Easily the dumbest remark in the article. Who PAYS this "non-tax" revenue, Ricky??--That's right--your own citizens!!]

Milwaukee's Common Council also has opposed the measure, and city officials have sent a letter to local congressmen stating their opposition, said Paul Vornholt, a spokesman for Mayor Tom Barrett.

But Blackburn said local governments would not lose their fee revenue.

"My bill absolutely does not take away local revenue streams, and those who claim otherwise don't have their facts correct," Blackburn said.

"The language was specifically written to require that video providers continue to pay fees to the local government. In all likelihood, this legislation would decrease costs for consumers and increase revenues for our local governments as more providers enter your local marketplace," she said. "More providers equal lower consumer prices and more fees for local government.

"We've fallen to 16th in the world in broadband deployment, and we've got little to no video provider competition because of the current regulations. This bill manages to correct those problems while preserving local funding streams and control."

Del Beaver, the administrator of the Village of Jackson in Washington County, said the federal government should leave well enough alone.

Jackson will get about $45,000 this year through its franchise agreement with Charter Communications.

"The competition thing is a sham," Beaver said. "It isn't going to happen."

Ahhhh--Mr. Beaver, given your occupation as a "village administrator" you most likely do not understand the term "competition" correctly. Don't prove it to all of us.

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