Lowering your cable bill?

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: A couple of weeks ago, we told you about a bill that'd just passed the House that could save couch potatoes some serious bucks. The bill would make it easier for phone companies to compete against cable companies, lowering your cable charges in the process. The Senate Commerce Committee votes on that today. It's facing a tough fight but, Alisa Roth tells us, you may get your cheaper cable access either way.

ALISA ROTH: The new bill is supposed to replace 30,000 local cable franchising authorities with just one federal office. The single system is designed to break up local cable monopolies, and give telecom companies a chance to offer their own TV services.

Ted Hearn is an editor at Multichannel News. He says cable already faces some competition from satellite TV, but not enough to make pricing competitive.

TED HEARN: That's why lawmakers want to see wireline competition to cable from Verizon and AT&T, perhaps Bell South and Qwest.

But Hearn says we'll probably see that competition even if the Senate can't compromise. Telecoms have already convinced a few municipalities to let them in and it's a trend Hearn thinks will continue.

HEARN: They're probably going to accelerate their lobbying effort to get state legislatures to adopt statewide franchising so that the most they would have to deal with is 50 franchising negotiations.

The Senate's Commerce Committee meets tomorrow to vote on a draft of the bill.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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