And so unions formed, and enough of a public outcry was raised to stir Congress to action.
The COPE Act sounds like a promise to return to the easier days before regulation in some parts of the cable television and Internet industry. Because it can take months for cable companies to be awarded franchises, this bill sets up a system of "national cable franchising" in Title I (Summary of COPE Act). The bonus is that applications will now be awarded in thirty days. However, this will lead to the elimination of competition, and insufficient media infrastructure in poor communities, and so this bill threatens the access of many to affordable media. As a result, it should not be made into law as it is currently written.
It may seem that creating one franchising standard nationwide would be a positive change. As it stands now, cable providers have to work out local franchising agreements with every local government where they want to offer their programming. Because telephone companies want to enter the cable television industry, they also have to go through this maze of negotiation, and one force behind the COPE Act is the telephone companies' complaint that the negotiation process is excessively "burdensome"(COPE Act of 2006).
However, for this bill to be fair to all Americans, it should contain more specific requirements for infrastructure. There are currently no requirements for providers to set up infrastructure to all neighborhoods within a particular market, and so people in rich neighborhoods could end up with more choices, and therefore better pricing, than those in poor neighborhoods (COPE Act of 2006). Without this requirement, companies are likely to avoid areas where collections and maintenance costs could be higher, because of higher occurrences of delinquent accounts and vandalism. If one segment of the American population has the chance to receive lower cable prices, then all segments should have that chance.
Also, by creating a national set of franchising requirements, this bill takes away the ability of state and local government to regulate the cable industry in the area of consumer protection, giving that ability instead to the FCC, an already burdened government agency that does not have the time to regulate the cable industry's consumer practices as well. The FCC is not currently authorized to order refunds, as state and local governments are - the FCC only has the power to fine companies, and that money just goes to the government - not to the victims (COPE Act of 2006).
Another area of concern has to do with public, educational, and government channels, or PEG TV. If cable companies no longer have to answer to municipal and state governments, it will no longer have the incentive to give up channels for public/community access space (Davies). This will even further reduce the amount of non-commercial media available