Over the objections of the cable industry, Texas lawmakers gave final approval last week to a measure that would make it easier for phone and other companies to offer television services in local communities, the Associated Press reported.
The telecommunications bill would allow phone companies, such as SBC Communications and Verizon Communications, to avoid the thousands of local cable TV licenses that cable companies must acquire.
Phone companies are investing billions to upgrade their local networks to deliver television programming and faster Internet connections. They say such services would be stalled if individual licenses were required in each municipality.
Texas is one of several states that have considered the issue, with phone and cable companies engaged in a furious battle. The bills in Texas and other states would let phone companies and other providers get a pay-TV franchise from the state instead of from each city.
The cable industry contends the bill would give big phone companies unprecedented competitive advantages. The bill would keep many existing contracts between cities and cable companies in place until they expire.