When asked last week to give the Public Service Commission the authority to regulate cable and video service providers, the House Commerce Committee changed the channel.
HB 534 by Rep. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans, would have stripped the secretary of state’s office of its current oversight role and passed it along, with some additional responsibilities, to the PSC. But most of the lawmakers on the committee said they weren’t provided with a good enough reason to make the change. The bill was deferred by a vote of 14-3.
Brandon Frey, executive counsel to the PSC, said the commission passed a resolution earlier this month to ask for the power to adopt new standards of customer service for cable providers. Supporters say the goal was not to create new fees for the PSC, or to expand the staff, but to rather add a new layer of oversight to providers that are bundling their products with phone services, which are already being regulated by the commission.
“The commission does field a high number of complaints for an area that they do not have jurisdiction over,” Frey said. “Some commissioners say they field more complaints about this than the areas they do have jurisdiction over.”
Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, argued that the market is already regulating cable and video services and consumers can turn to satellite or Internet TV if they’re displeased.
“In years past cable was your only option,” he said. “But today it’s not. It’s not exactly a monopoly. Why burden the cable company with more regulation and another set of standards, that they don’t know yet what they will be, when they’re already subject to competition?”
Cheryl P. McCormick, CEO of the Louisiana Cable and Telecommunications Association, added in an interview prior to the hearing, "We're already regulated on the federal level by the FCC and there's more competition in the video services field than there has ever been. We believe more regulation is not the answer."