87th Annual Meeting

Supporting Local Cable Franchising Including Non-monetary Obligations

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

    WHEREAS, cable companies may use city 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 agreement obtained from units of local government and 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;
    • Setting customer service standards, protections, and enforcement mechanisms; and

    WHEREAS, such agreements call for providing rental payments in the form of franchise fees to the unit of local government in return for the providers' use of valuable public property for their lines; and

    WHEREAS, such agreements often also call on the cable operator to meet the community needs and interests by including non-financial franchise obligations, protected by Congress in the Cable Act, for services that include:
    • Public Education and Government ("PEG") channels, including HD format and in some cases Video on Demand;
    • Financial support for the capital expenses associated with creating and running programming on PEG channels;
    • Inclusion of PEG programming on Electronic Programming Guide Service
    • Complimentary connections to city and school buildings and the provision of lines for municipal use (I-Net);
    • Carriage of local emergency alerts, which because they relate to local emergencies are typically not carried on the federal emergency alert system; and

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

    WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposal (05-311) that would allow cable companies to establish a market value for the non-financial franchise obligations and then allow the cable operators to deduct that amount from the franchise fees owed under the franchise agreements; and

    WHEREAS, the FCC, in the same proceeding is suggesting that a cable operator needs no additional permission nor comply with any additional requirements when it accesses city property to offer non-cable services; and

    WHEREAS, these FCC proposals undermine local authority, turn public property over to private interests and remove longstanding community benefits, resulting in consumer harm and impact to basic municipal services

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors affirms the importance of 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 opposes any regulatory proceeding or legislation that seek to alter the terms of existing franchises, including any effort to require that non-financial obligations be subject to offset against franchise fees,

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors supports and will work to adopt any regulatory proceeding or legislative effort that expands access to affordable broadband services, by means of wire or wireless delivery, so long as such proposals respect the right of a local government to obtain market value for the use of public property employed in making such services available.
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