News

AT&T, cable operators ratchet up campaigns

On the air and in the Capitol, a battle is brewing between the giants of the
cable and telecommunication industries. In the last quarter of 2005, AT&T
spent a company record $1.6 million in lobbying fees. All the money they
spent on lobbying the Legislature was tagged for “future legislation”–and it
was all spent while state legislators were on vacation.

Before detailed legislation even has been introduced, the multi-million
dollar media and lobbying campaign to ease access for phone companies to
California’s burgeoning broadband market has begun.

Last week, AT&T began airing advertisements in the Sacramento region,
calling for the California Legislature to be a “catalyst” for increased
competition in the cable market. But in a sign of the acrimonious debate to
come, the ads only could be seen on broadcast networks because Comcast, the
local cable operator, refused to sell advertisement to its would-be
competitor.

“As one would in battle, they first try to soften the territory with
television and newspaper ads,” said Dennis Mangers, president of the
California Cable Television Association (CCTA), , citing the phone
companies’ efforts in other states that are considering opening their cable
markets.

The center of debate is a bill authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian N


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