I’ve got a new article in last Friday’s Kansas City Business Journal on the need for cable franchise reform. My article focuses on the Missouri system, (since I work at a Missouri think tank) but this is an issue that’s applicable across the country. Most states (with Texas being the notable exception) have an outmoded “municipal franchising” regime in which each city government gets to make a soviet-style 5-year plan for cable service in their community. This might have made sense in the 1970s when each community only had one option for pay TV service, but it makes no sense whatsoever when virtually every consumer has satellite as an option, and the Baby Bells are pouring money into building out fiber networks in order to offer a third alternative. Today, the franchises themselves have become a major barrier to entry.
They dealt with this in Texas by replacing the local franchising system with a streamlined state-wide franchise. Instead of having to negotiate with hundreds of city governments for permission to offer video service, you just file a single application with the state government. This is a big step in the right direction–one that other states should emulate.