The 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature gaveled to a close on May 27. For cable companies and their consumers, the session was a successful one. From protecting the industry against broadband deployment legislation that wasn’t ready for prime time, and disaster response bills that would have added onerous reporting requirement for our member companies, the 86th Legislative session was a successful one for the Texas Cable Association (TCA). Legislation to save consumers money and to protect the privacy of their data were among those passed that the TCA and its member companies advocated.
Right-of-way reform: Erase a telecom tax & save consumers money
SB 1152 (by Sen. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Dade Phelan)
Municipalities currently charge companies for the right to place lines that provide consumers with services like video and telecommunications in the public right of way (ROW). Because of duplicative and outdated laws, if a line handles both voice and video service, the city charges the provider twice for access on the same line. Those charges are reflected on most customer’s bills.
In reality today, both telecom and video providers transmit multiple services over one line – just one access point. Therefore, two separate fees should no longer be assessed on providers or paid by customers.
Senate Bill 1152, strongly advocated by the Texas Cable Association, will allow telecommunication and video providers that currently pay both the telecommunications access fee under Chapter 283 of the Local Government Code and video franchise fee under Chapter 66 of the Public Utility Regulatory Act to elect to pay only the higher of the two fees. The provider is exempted from owing the smaller fee. As a result, millions of Texans will see a line item fee erased from their monthly bill, saving customers millions of dollars annually.
The bill also ensures that cities will not be unduly harmed; they will continue to receive a fee in every municipality where they currently collect for access. The bill also includes language to protect the cities’ current ability to charge up to a 1% franchise fee to provide Public, Education or Governmental (PEG) channels.
This bill has been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. It becomes effective on Sept. 1 and applies to fee collections beginning Jan.1, 2020.
Protect consumer privacy
HB 4390 (by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione and Sen. Jane Nelson)
The Texas cable industry worked with the business community on House Bill 4390 to update requirements for the disclosure of data breaches affecting the loss of sensitive personal information. The bill also creates the Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council to study data privacy laws in Texas, other states and relevant foreign jurisdictions. The council will be composed of 15 members; five each will be appointed by the Texas House speaker, the lieutenant governor and the governor.
The council is required to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2020. The council will be abolished Dec. 31, 2020.
The bill has been signed into law by Gov. Abbott and becomes effective Sept. 1.