Illinois' cable franchise law renewal was in the mash up of bills hitting the floor during the final week of the session in Springfield. Both the House and Senate voted to approve a two-year extension of the amended Cable and Video Competition Act (the Illinois Cable Act) to July of 2015.
The bill represents a mixed outcome for the public.
The good news is that the state rejected an attempt by the Cable Television and Communications Association of Illinois (CT&C) to obtain sweeping changes to the law that would have impaired municipal authority and wreaked havoc on the state's public, educational and government (PEG) access channels. PEG channels provide thousands of hours of programming statewide on education, arts, economic development, public safety and civic engagement.
The bad news is the lack of enforcement or legislation to rectify AT&T's failure to meet the equivalency standard in the law for PEG channels.
"We need the Attorney General to enforce the state's PEG access provisions," said Illinois NATOA President, Howard Kleinstein, "Should enforcement fail to correct AT&T's segregation and inferior treatment of PEG channels, a legislative solution in 2015 will be imperative."
Other amendments to the law delete certain build-out requirements and consumer protections.
A hallmark of local cable franchising is the requirement that a company make its service available to all residents in a defined area. With the introduction of state franchise law in 2007, state franchise holders only have to meet half that standard over a period of time.
For many Illinois residents, that means meaningful cable competition will remain a hit or miss proposition.