Over the objections of the cable industry, Texas lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that would make it easier for phone and other companies to offer television services.
The wide-ranging telecommunications bill would allow phone companies, such as SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., 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 Senate approved the bill late Tuesday. The House followed with its vote hours later, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Perry (R) for his consideration.
Supporters say phone companies, which have pushed for the change, would give consumers more choice. They also promised the change would draw billions of dollars in new technology investment.
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.