Indiana Ponders Update For Antique Telecom Law

Telecom-reform legislation proposed yesterday in the Indiana General Assembly would, among other things, mandate a statewide system for video franchising while imposing new conditions on the establishment of municipal government-owned and -operated access and communications networks.

State Senate bill SB 245, introduced by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-7th District) – with several co-authors and sponsors – was described by its supporters as a sweeping reform measure aimed at moving “Indiana to the top of the list of states competing for private investment in technology” while empowering consumers and “removing cumbersome regulations from phone, video and broadband industries.”

SB 245 is scheduled to be reviewed at a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security, Utilities and Public Policy Committee on Jan. 10, and a similar measure may soon surface in the House.

“Indiana’s telecommunications laws were last updated in 1985, when a BlackBerry was just a fruit and Google was just a very large number,” Hershman said. “It’s time to modify our laws so that the free market can drive down prices for consumers.”

The bill creates one statewide franchising authority for video programming across all technologies, ostensibly to promote rapid development of new video networks by minimizing regulatory costs and expensive construction delays. It also sets up a series of requirements municipalities must meet before being allowed to own and operate broadband networks.

The proposal also deregulates basic phone service when providers reach 50-percent broadband penetration, it creates local property tax abatements for broadband infrastructure investments and it exempts broadband services from regulation.

The Indiana chapter of advocacy group FreedomWorks welcomed the new legislative proposal, saying its would “eliminate unnecessary and burdensome telecom regulation and open up the cable TV marketplace to the benefits of increased competition in video programming,” including more choices, better service and competitive prices.

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