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At one time Qwest had to prove that it was allowing "fair access" to its telephone lines to long-distance companies such as AT&T and MCI, so they could begin selling local phone service, too. That had to be demonstrated before Qwest would be allowed to sell long distance service again.,1299,DRMN_82_5292957,00.html

Remember what we used to pay for [long distance] per-minute when there was just one provider? Now with cell phones, a long distance call to Los Angeles costs the same as a call across the street - and it ain't much.

Dec. 20, the FCC clearly signaled its intentions. First, the FCC issued a report showing that cable prices increased 93 percent from 1995 to 2005, well ahead of inflation. The report also found that rates are 17 percent lower in areas of the country where there is a second cable company. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association cried foul, saying the "obsolete" survey failed to account for "the greatly increased value of cable services in a digital world."

I'm guessing the initial FCC survey resonates more with most of you than the cable industry's response. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin used the report to demonstrate why more competition is "desperately needed."

Next the FCC took aim at local authorities, which normally grant franchises to new TV competitors. Qwest has been negotiating unsuccessfully with them for some time. In our area, the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium represents 32 Colorado jurisdictions. They demand that Qwest provide the same service everywhere before they provide it anywhere. Qwest wants to phase in the service. Municipalities argue that Qwest will "cherry pick" high-end neighborhoods and ignore others. That seems a shaky argument. The service will be carried over phone lines, and most everyone has one.

Comcast also argues that Qwest should be required to build out everywhere, but here's where things start to stink. Under federal policy, Comcast doesn't need a franchise to offer phone service over their cable, so it isn't subject to a build-out requirement. Comcast is allowed to encroach on Qwest's turf and sell phone service along with its TV service, but it doesn't want Qwest allowed to encroach on its turf and similarly sell television along with its phone service. As a Rocky editorial proclaimed in December 2005 - that's how long this has been stalled - "We think Qwest should face the same build-out requirements in television as Comcast does in telephony - that is to say, none."

The FCC passed a measure last month that requires local franchise authorities to decide within 90 days on phone company applications to offer TV in competition with cable providers. The FCC also made it clear that they don't want local authorities to impose new build-out requirements.

I'm told these FCC decisions will be appealed and stalled, but their intent is clear: let the phone companies offer television services to compete with cable companies that offer telephony. Stop producing obstacles and start making it easier. Get out of the way.

Seems Solomon-like to me. In California, the state Legislature tired of the haggling with local authorities and passed a statewide franchise agreement. That's what Qwest wants to do here. As a consumer of television services, I want to see more competition as technology allows for it. Satellite TV is an option I could choose. Video services over phone lines is an option I can't choose, because monopoly providers and local regulators prevent me. Even the FCC is now on my side, and I am impatient for results.
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