WisBusiness: TDS chief expects cable bill to become law

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – TDS President and CEO Dave Wittwer said today he continues to support the cable competition bill now before the Joint Finance Committee and remains convinced it will be passed into law and signed by the governor.

Supporters say the legislation, which allows traditional telecommunications carriers like TDS and AT&T to enter the video entertainment marketplace, would result in more competition and save users up to $150 a year. It would give the state the power to grant statewide franchises to certain video service providers.

Opponents say the bill will reduce funding of local access channels — most of which are funded by franchise revenue-sharing agreements — and lower customer service standards. Cable franchises are now handled by local governments.

“If it is done right, it’s a good thing,” said Wittwer, speaking at a business luncheon sponsored by WisBusiness.com, Madison Magazine and the Madison Club.

“I believe it will give business and consumers more choices. It only makes sense and it is already being offered in other states.”

But Wittwer said he wants to make sure that all companies affected by the legislation are playing by the same rules.

Following the luncheon Wittwer and TDS legislative director Drew Petersen said they expect additional communications reform bills to come before the Legislature.

“I think we’ve earned some regulatory relief,” said Petersen. “We would have preferred a comprehensive bill up front with three to four components. AT&T wanted the cable bill to go separately. But I think there will be more legislation, right on the heels of this bill.”