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ACM Public Policy Action Update

FNPRM on Cable Franchising

Summary: The FCC has issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making on Cable Franchising (https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-seeks-comment-lfas-regulation-cable-operators). There will be public comment and reply deadlines this Fall. The FCC may issue a ruling in 2019.

Impact on communities and PEG: The FCC is proposing to rule that all “In-Kind” cable franchise obligations other than PEG capital costs and build-out requirements are a “franchise fee” under the Cable Act and thus count against the 5% franchise fee cap. The FCC would define “In-Kind” contributions so broadly as to undermine the Cable Act’s intent to provide franchise fees to communities for use of public rights of way. Any non-monetary benefit could conceivably be charged back against franchise fees – from backhaul services, to electronic program guides, to the value of PEG channel capacity itself. The charge backs would be at fair market value as determined by the cable industry, so we believe in some areas franchise fees might be eliminated in their entirety.

Action: ACM will coordinate legal responses to the FNPRM and will work with national allies in the rulemaking. We will provide instructions to guide your communities so you can reply to the proceeding when deadlines are published.

You should do two things in this proceeding: You should set aside time to prepare comments later this fall about the importance of your work to the community. And you should contact political leaders at the local, state and federal level (on both sides of the aisle) to express their displeasure to the FCC at this action to undermine the Cable Act. We can supply materials to help with this action as well.

Wireless Order

Summary: The FCC has issued a Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order on Wireless Infrastructure (https://www.fcc.gov/document/streamlining-deployment-next-generation-wireless-infrastructure).

Impact on communities and PEG: The impact on towns, cities and counties will be immediate – the Order severely limits local control over siting of wireless facilities, and limits the compensation for the use of public rights of way to direct costs. Limiting right-of-way compensation to costs will cost communities billions of dollars in revenue and will increase political pressure at state level and in Congress to reduce or eliminate cable franchise fees of all types.

Action: Local municipalities should engage with legal counsel and municipal associations who will directly challenge the Order in court. ACM can help you connect with them if you need this assistance. We will provide legal support for the challenge as it proceeds.

The next ACM Public Policy Call is Thursday, October 4 at 4pm ET and is open to ACM Members. Please contact mwassenaar@allcommunitymedia.org for more information about the call or this action update.