Louisiana bill to regulate cable television service providers fails _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana House Commerce Committee Chairman Erich Ponti hears testimony Tuesday from Rob Rieger and Cheryl McCormick of the Louisiana Cable and Telecommunications Association on a bill that would regulate cable television. The panel voted down the measure.

Efforts to regulate cable television on a state level were set aside Tuesday by the Louisiana House Commerce Committee.

The panel voted 14-3 to defer House Bill 534, which would have given the Louisiana Public Service Commission authority to regulate cable and video service providers. The PSC is a constitutionally based agency that already regulates some telecommunications and trucking as well as the private utilities that sell electricity and natural gas to consumers.

The five elected commissioners receive a lot of complaints about cable television, more than over any consumer service they already are charged to investigate, said Brandon Frey, PSC executive counsel. HB534 would give the PSC the ability to investigate and act on the complaints they already receive.

The legislation was the first measure sponsored by state Rep. Joseph Buie Jr., D-New Orleans, who was elected in September 2014.

“We have great fear of this bill,” Rob Rieger, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Cable and Telecommunications Association, told the committee.

Cheryl P. McCormick, the chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge-based trade association for cable providers, said competition is so great that customers can subscribe to another service – and do – when they have complaints.

Commerce Committee Chairman Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, questioned how much the additional duties would cost the PSC and moved to reject the legislation.

A deferral doesn’t kill the legislation but as a practical matter the bill won’t be considered again this session.

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