FCC Adopts Order That Preempts Local Video Franchising Authority

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Despite opposition from the National League of Cities and other local government groups, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order last week that would federally mandate how video franchising would occur in the United States.

The FCC passed the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by a vote of 3 to 2. The order establishes rules and provides guidance to implement Section 621(a)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits franchising authorities from unreasonably refusing to award competitive franchises for the provision of cable services, according to a press release from the FCC.

"In the order, the commission concludes that the current operation of the franchising process constitutes an unreasonable barrier to entry that impedes the achievement of the interrelated federal goals of enhanced cable competition and accelerated broadband deployment," stated the press release.

NLC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties, and National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors sent a letter to the FCC prior to the FCC's December 20 meeting, stating that the order "undermines local franchising authority and enforcement, threatens local budgets and limits the benefits of broadband video competition to a few well-to-do neighborhoods."

NLC released a statement following the FCC's adoption of the rule.

"We are confounded by today's decision by the Federal Communications Commission that would systematically block the ability of local governments to protect their citizens, local assets and revenues," said NLC Executive Director Donald J. Borut. "It is not in the best interest of America's taxpaying public; it is not in the best interest of our citizens who own the public rights of way; it is not in the best interest of the widest number of consumers, who, depending on where they live or how much they are willing to spend, may be shut out from the most up-to-date technology by companies seeking to service only the most well-to-do neighborhoods. …