Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the bill on Friday creating a single statewide franchise system for delivery of cable TV services. This means phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon will be entering the cable TV space, just as cable companies are beginning to offer phone service. Essentially all telecommunications companies are trying to capture the triple play market (offering phone, data and television).
I have seen little analysis about how this will affect communities who have been collecting franchise fees. I assume existing franchise agreements like the one recently negotiated with Suddenlink locally will remain in effect for its duration which runs through 2014.
One of the troubling aspects of the legislation is the lack of any requirement for telecom companies to provide service throughout a region. This means rural areas, less densely populated areas, poorer areas are likely to be overlooked by improved services.
The new law also puts more urgency behind the push for redundant or alternative fiber, one not owned by AT&T. Here in Humboldt County we are served by a single fiber connection to the rest of the Internet. That means all traffic (data, phone and any Internet protocol based TV or IPTV) would be travelling over AT&T’s single fiber. This not only mitigates any potential price breaks brought on by competition, but makes the possibility of tiered Internet services that much more likely.