Monday, April 2, 2007

Local Governments Ask Courts to Reverse FCC Ruling on Video Franchising

Several organizations representing local governments, including the National League of Cities (NLC) and the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), file papers in federal court seeking to reverse the recent franchising order adopted by the FCC.

The groups argue that the FCC's Video Franchising order would severely restrict the ability of local governments to protect their citizens, rights-of-way, community channels and public safety networks. In addition, the groups believe that the FCC order would lead to a tremendous reduction in the revenues received by local governments for use of their rights of way, as well as loss of cable services to many governmental buildings and schools.

The formal Petitions for Review filed said the FCC order "exceeds the FCC's statutory authority," is "arbitrary and capricious," "an abuse of discretion, unsupported by substantial evidence, and in violation of the United States Constitution." The FCC order also "violates both the Communications Act and Administrative Procedure Act's public notice requirements," according to the Petitions.

Other organizations participating in the court challenge to the FCC order include the Alliance for Communications Democracy (ACD), Alliance for Community Media (ACM), National Association of Counties (NACo), and the National Association of Telecommunications Officials and Advisors (NATOA).

  • In late December 2006, the FCC voted 3-to-2 to approve new rules that prohibit local franchising authorities from unreasonably refusing to award competitive franchises for the provision of cable services. The vote is a victory for A&T, Verizon and other telephone providers seeking to enter the market for video services.

  • The majority of FCC commissioners concluded that the current franchising process required by local municipalities constitutes an unreasonable barrier to entry that impedes the achievement of the interrelated federal goals of enhanced cable competition and accelerated broadband deployment.

  • The new rules would prohibit towns or cities from engaging new market entrants in drawn-out local negotiations with no time limits; unreasonable build-out requirements; unreasonable requests for "in-kind" payments that attempt to subvert the five percent cap on franchise fees; and unreasonable demands with respect to public, educational and government access.


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