Phone companies lose round in Texas TV bid

Scotched bill could have given Verizon and SBC a leg up in their efforts to offer television services.

Phone companies fell short in a controversial legislative effort over the weekend that might have made it easier for them to offer television services.

Legislators in Texas were unable to reach a compromise on a bill that would have allowed phone companies to negotiate a single statewide contract with the Texas Public Utility Commission to offer television programming, rather than work city by city to acquire franchises through local governments.

The bill had been seen as critical to SBC Communications and Verizon Communications, which have plans in the works to begin offering television service to consumers this year. It was opposed by cable providers, which said the bill unfairly favored the telephone companies.

Verizon said that the legislative impasse will prolong a time-consuming process for allowing more competitors into the game.

"We believe that competition for video services will take place much slower without a statewide franchise," Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said Monday.

Verizon has already established a small local foothold in Texas for a fiber-optic network over which it plans to offer its Fios television services.