WHEREAS, the streets and highways are public property, obtained and maintained by municipalities at great expense; and

WHEREAS, cable and telecommunications companies use the streets and highways for their lines which provide service to customers, but only after obtaining permission to use this property for their lines; and

WHEREAS, such permission is normally contained in a franchise obtained from local units of government and cable franchises include important provisions to protect the community and its residents such as

  • Managing the lines in the streets so that there is minimal disruption, safety codes are followed, and all types of users (cars, pedestrians, utilities) can use the streets with the least interference from others;
  • Requiring providers to repair the streets they harm and relocate lines at their expense, if streets are straightened, widened, or otherwise worked on;
  • Prohibiting redlining either directly or by delays in serving minority areas, which is especially offensive when public property is being used to provide service;
  • Ensuring nondiscriminatory service, such as by requiring lines to be extended to all areas with a certain population density;
  • Requiring bonds, insurance, and other security so municipalities and their residents are protected if the provider causes damage or goes bankrupt, as some have;
  • Requiring local cable channels, similar to miniature CSPANs, for local units of government, schools and the public, and requiring funding from the cable company to support such channels;
  • Providing cash compensation in the form of franchise fees to the local unit of government in return for the providers' use of valuable public property for their lines;
  • Obtaining in kind compensation for such use, such as free provision of some channels to city and school buildings and the provision of lines for municipal use;
  • Setting customer service standards, protections, and enforcement mechanisms appropriate to the municipality in question, including having the municipality assist in resolving customer disputes when problems arise; and
  • Requiring the carriage of local emergency alerts, which because they relate to local emergencies are typically not carried on the federal emergency alert system;

    WHEREAS, the preceding franchise provisions promote localism by making sure cable service and use of the rights of way are tailored to the local needs of each municipality, such localism having been Federal law and policy since 1984, and the policy of municipalities for 30 years before that;

    WHEREAS, for over 50 years, cable companies have been required to obtain local franchises before providing service, and such a requirement has served the nation and the public well;

    WHEREAS, Congress is now considering legislation on the provision of video, voice, and data services using Internet Protocol technology in which it may limit or abolish cable and telephone franchises, such as by proposals to replace them with a national franchise;

    WHEREAS, the use of Internet Protocol technology to deliver cable service is only the latest in a series of technical improvements over the past 50 years in cable television, such as the replacement of vacuum tubes with integrated circuits, and the shift from black and white to color, and does not change the basic nature of cable service;

    WHEREAS, limiting or abolishing cable franchises would violate property rights and principles of Federalism by taking portions of the streets and rights of way for providers' lines without the agreement of the municipality in question, without adequate provision to tailor the franchise and services to meet local needs, and without the provisions in cable franchises necessary to protect the municipality, the public, and customers; and

    WHEREAS, franchises and the protections they provide can only be effectively enforced locally, as no Federal agency has the staff, budget or expertise to know the local conditions regarding service, rights of way or problems in each of this country's many municipalities, and this nation's municipalities have demonstrated over the past fifty years that cable franchises can be effectively enforced at the local level;

    WHEREAS, municipalities have franchised second cable companies in recent years, especially where the second provider requested a cable franchise closely based on the existing cable company's franchise, so that the local needs addressed by the municipality in the original franchise were met, and both companies were treated similarly;

    WHEREAS, telephone companies can promptly obtain cable franchises if they, too, request franchises closely based on the franchise of the existing cable provider;

    WHEREAS, cable franchises serve an important function, must be continued, and telephone companies can obtain such franchises without hindering their provision of Internet Protocol services;

    WHEREAS, telephone companies in many states currently obtain franchises or other approval to use the public streets, and provide compensation to municipalities for their use of public streets and rights of way for their lines;

    WHEREAS, providers of broadband data services, such as cable modem and DSL service, similarly use the public streets and rights of way for the lines by which they provide service, and should similarly provide compensation to municipalities;

    WHEREAS, the main reason broadband services are made generally available throughout many municipalities is because the main provider is the cable operator, and that company's cable franchise requires it to provide service throughout the community;

    WHEREAS, legislation removing the sums municipalities currently receive from the preceding types of providers for usage of the public streets would cost this nation's municipalities over $2 billion per year, and would have a severe financial impact on municipalities at the time both state and Federal funds for municipalities are being cut.

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors affirms the prime importance of local cable franchising in granting permission for cable companies to use valuable public property for their lines; in providing needed protections for municipalities, the public, and cable customers; and in tailoring franchise requirements and services to meet local needs; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors supports the continued requirement for providers of video services using the public rights of way to obtain cable franchises, whether that provider is a cable company, a telephone company, or some other entity; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors opposes legislation preventing municipalities from requiring broadband or telephone providers who use the rights of way to obtain a local franchise or other local permission to use the public streets; from being fairly compensated for such use; from maintaining local control and management of the rights of way; from preventing redlining or other discriminatory practices; and from ensuring appropriate consumer protections; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors opposes legislation which would limit or restrict the need for providers offering Internet Protocol based video services to obtain cable franchises, or which would impose other restrictions relating to such providers on the rights of local government to manage their rights of way, be fairly compensated for same, provide needed protections for the municipality, the public, and customers, and ensure that local needs are met.

  • 2005 The U.S. Conference of Mayors
    Tom Cochran, Executive Director
    1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
    Tel. 202.293.7330 ~ Fax 202.293.2352