"You need to treat like services alike," Berry added. "There's no reason to give the telecommunications companies ... a break at this stage of the game."
Representative Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat, proposed a compromise during the discussion. Boucher, who supports a national franchise system, proposed that cable TV operators should also be able to use the national system instead of applying for many local franchises. At the same time, he rejected calls from the cable TV industry to require the telecom carriers to offer service to all customers in a local area, as cable companies have had to do.
With more than one provider of video services in an area, new competitors should be able to offer service where they see the best opportunities, and not where customers are unlikely to subscribe, Boucher said. "You might wind up with a lot of stranded investment if you had a [total] build-out requirement," he said.
Boucher also proposed companion legislation that would allow local governments to offer broadband service in competition with the Bells. "Maybe we ought to consider that law in conjunction with a national franchising law," he said. "Both the cable and the phone companies would get something and would give something up."
Verizon and SBC have lobbied for legislation to outlaw municipal broadband services, but SBC's Olson didn't raise objections to Boucher's compromise.