Almost every ad on washingtonpost.com this morning is a broadside from either the telcos or the cable companies about video franchise legislation, which is up for consideration on Capitol Hill today. The telcos want to be able to offer TV over their lines without having to get permission from every last city and county in the country. The cable companies, which have spent the past few decades negotiating franchise deals with every last city and county in the country, want the phone guys to suffer like they did.
Or something like that. I make no claim to expertise on this debate, and from my reading of the press coverage, no other journalist can, either. It’s one of those classic big-money Washington battles that only people in the industries involved fully understand.
It’s funny, I wrote a piece in Fortune a few weeks ago that made a big deal out of the debate over network neutrality, which pits the telcos and cable companies on one side against Internet companies like Google on the other. Philosophically, it’s a much more important issue than who issues video franchises. But the battle lines aren’t as clear, and there’s no one-day-to-the-next connection between passing a new law and one side or the other suddenly making a lot more money—as would be the case if the telcos succeed in getting video franchising decisions switched from the local to the state level. Which means that in K Street terms, network neutrality is a yawner compared with this video franchise stuff.
The telcos’ ads on washingtonpost.com ask, “Are You Paying Too Much for Cable TV?” Whether you click yes or no, you are directed to the same site, which every time I checked it this morning was inaccessible. Not the best advertisement for getting your TV or Internet from a phone company.