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Cable Gets Video-Franchise Relief from FCC

Order Prevents Local Authorities from 'Unreasonably Refusing to Award Competitive Cable Franchises'

By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/31/2007 10:48:00 AM

In a 3-2 vote with Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein dissenting, the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday extended immediate video-franchise relief to incumbent cable operators.

The commission extended similar relief to telco video providers in March and said at the time that it planned to do the same for incumbents, although it also said at that time that it said it planned to apply the relief only when existing cable-franchise agreements were up for renewal.

Instead, the commission said Wednesday that the relief -- including on franchise fees; public, educational and government channel obligations; and noncable-related services -- would apply immediately.

The FCC order adopted Wednesday prevents local franchising authorities from "unreasonably refusing to award competitive cable franchises."

The timing and build-out findings of the original order do not apply, however, the FCC said, since "the rationale for these provisions, that they serve as a barrier to entry, are not applicable."

The Republican majority said the move would "extend regulatory parity," lower rates, spur competition and innovation and boost broadband rollouts.

The Democrats said it was going in the wrong direction. "We pick up with the mistakes that were made in the first report and order, providing future disruption, confusion and complication to the local franchising process," Adelstein said, calling the relief "arbitrary and capricious."

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