US House looks to 'open up' cable TV market

US lawmakers say their goal is to open cable TV markets to more competition, possibly saving consumers hundreds of dollars a year, in a US House legislation that also tackles the government's role in Internet access, according to an Associated Press report.

The report said the biggest telecom legislation in a decade would pave the way for telephone companies to more easily enter the subscription television market.

A national franchise process would replace the current system where potential providers must negotiate separately with each municipality, the report said.

"This legislation can increase competition not only for cable services, but also unleash a race for who can supply the fastest, most sophisticated broadband connections that will provide video, voice and data services," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, Republican from Texas, was quoted as saying.

Rep. Fred Upton, who headed the telecom subcommittee, estimated that people could save $30 to $40 each month if given a choice in video services, the report also said.

But many Democrats said the measure did too little to ensure that broadband services would be extended to lower income and rural areas, the report said.

Lawmakers said the bill did not adequately address "Net neutrality," preventing companies from discriminating against competitors or less affluent consumers by restricting access or charging higher fees, according to the report.