Diverse 17-Group Coalition Tells Congress: Help Consumers, Hasten Video Competition

(Alexandria, VA) -- For the sake of lower rates and better choices for consumers, Congress should act to remove the outdated regulations that crush competition for local video services. That's the message 17 federal, state, and local citizen groups and think tanks delivered to lawmakers today in an open letter the 350,000 member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) organized.

"The lesson is simple: consumers win when and where competition exists. With competition, video service prices come down as local cable companies are finally forced to compete for customers," the letter stated.

The 17 signatories to the letter demonstrate the broad geographical and ideological appeal that the video choice movement has sparked. In a further indication of the issue's resonance, NTU was able to enlist its supporters for the statement in just three days. Signatories included the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the National Tax Limitation Committee, Frontiers of Freedom, and Taxpayers for Common Sense Action, among others.

There are economic as well as fiscal implications driving the video choice debate. Currently numerous firms are prepared to invest in fiber-optic-based technologies such as "Internet Protocol Television" that could offer consumers more alternatives to cable services, whose prices have risen 46 percent over the past five years.

Standing in the way of this opportunity to allow market-competition to lower prices are "franchise agreements" that cable companies negotiated with thousands of local governments to provide exclusive service. Today franchises no longer make sense in a world of innovative telecom technologies, functioning only to block new entrants with burdensome rules and to collect fees for local governments at the expense of consumers.

The signatories seek a more open process for all telecom competitors. This would create strengthened statewide franchises (as Texas and Virginia have done) or a national solution (as Congress is now considering). "As you continue your deliberations, we urge you to keep the best interests of consumers foremost in mind. ? Removing barriers like these will mean more choices and lower costs for American consumers," the letter concluded.

Note: NTU is a non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government. The group has been involved in numerous tech issues, including opposition to predatory Internet taxes and repeal of the federal telephone excise tax. The coalition letter is available online at www.ntu.org.