How the AT&T legislation affects Tennesseans

How the AT&T legislation affects Tennesseans
On Monday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow cable and Internet providers to enter into statewide franchise rights. This has become know as the Cable Competition Bill or the AT&T bill.
After two long years of negotiations, some people in Tennessee will have more options when it comes to television, telephone, and Internet providers. Cautiously, I do not think this bill gives all that much hope to rural subscribers. AT&T and other negotiators say it does, but the proof will be seen in the next two to three years.
Under this bill, competitors would be able to obtain a ten-year state franchise certificate from the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) with the requirement that the company must build-out to at least 30% of their existing service area within 3.5 years. Companies would also be required to expand 25 percent of their total new services to underserved and low-income areas. Failure to meet either of these goals would result in substantial financial penalties.
The new legislation also takes steps to protect local interests, specifically local municipalities. Local franchise fees direct to local governments will remain in effect and any construction of right-of-ways will be under local regulation and approval.
This week Gov. Bredesen requested that the state House of Representatives and Senate convene for a joint session on May 12th so that he may address the revenue shortfalls expected for next fiscal year.
He will outline how he suggests to cut the proposed budget to get it in line with projections as well as what methods will be used to close the $180 million difference between projected revenue and actual revenue in this year’s budget.
As President Bush cuts federal funding to our state by over $130 million and poor corporate profits caused by high shipping costs and low consumer buying result in less and less corporate tax collections and families are forced to spend more and more for gas and food, Tennessee faces a serious budget crunch. The final budget will not be presented until later this month, but current estimates place the projected revenue shortfall between $400-$550 million. With such a drop in revenues, many state funded projects and programs are in danger of being cut in order to produce a balance budget.
When money is tight at home, we tighten our financial belts. The state of Tennessee is preparing to do the same thing. We will balance this budget, but balancing will require some tough decisions.
We are beginning the last weeks of this General Assembly. I welcome your comments by email at rep.mark.maddox@legislature.state.tn.us or by phone at 1-800-449-8366, ext. 17847 or by mail at 17 Legislative Plaza; Nashville, TN 37243.
WCP 5.08.09

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