THE FCC'S THIRD REPORT AND ORDER ON CABLE FRANCHISING AND THE PROTECT COMMUNITY TELEVISION ACT

The FCC’s Third Report and Order on Cable Franchising and the Protect Community Television Act

The FCC has issued rules around so-called “in-kind” benefits that in effect redefine what is and is not a franchise fee under federal law. The 1984 Cable Act allows communities to negotiate with cable companies to reach agreements that meet community needs. The FCC’s rules eliminate those rights and effectively rewrite the Cable Act.

Under the 1984, franchise fees granted for the use of public property and public rights-of-way are capped at five percent of gross cable revenues. The FCC’s new rules redefine non-cash items that benefit the public (promotional advertisements, cable service to classrooms, senior discounts, low income discounts, backhaul services from origination points, program information on electronic interactive navigation guides, and perhaps eventually the channels themselves) be charged back against that franchise fee cap.

The effect of the rule? In some communities, franchise fee support may be eliminated in its entirety and the cable industry would STILL collect fees from consumers! Cities and towns across America will be forced to choose between the rent they collect for the use of their property and the channels they and the public use to connect with one another.

ACM and our partners across the United States strongly oppose the rule. A coalition of cities and counties and national organizations including ACM is challenging the Order in Federal Court in the 6th Circuit and arguments in the case will begin in Spring 2020. Here is a copy of our appeal to stay the FCC's Order originally filed in the 9th Circuit. 

Meanwhile, Senator Ed Markey (MA) and Representative Anna Eshoo (CA) have co-authored the Protect Community Television Act (S3218/HR5659) which clarifies Congress’ intent in the Cable Act, that franchise fees are monetary which prevents the loophole the FCC created to benefit the cable industry. You can petition your Congress members to become co-sponsors of the Act here.

As of January 22, here are the co-sponsors of the Protect Community Television Act:

House

Anna Eshoo (CA)

TJ Cox (CA)

Jared Huffman (CA)

Adam Schiff (CA)

Jackie Speier (CA)

Tulsi Gabbard (HI)

Stephen Lynch (MA)

James McGovern (MA)

Richard Neal (MA)

Lori Trahan (MA)

Jamie Raskin (MD)

David Trone (MD)

Betty McCollum (MN)

Ann Kuster (NH)

Chris Pappas (NH)

Eliot Engel (NY)

Grace Meng (NY)

Jose Serrano (NY)

Earl Blumenaur (OR)

Peter DeFazio (OR)

Peter Welch (VT)

Gwen Moore (WI)

Senate

Ed Markey (MA)

Richard Blumenthal (CT)

Chris Murphy (CT)

Mazie Hirono (HI)

Elizabeth Warren (MA)

Ben Cardin (MD)

Chris Van Hollen (MD)

Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Tina Smith (MN)

Maggie Hassan (NH)

Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)

Jeff Merkley (OR)

Ron Wyden (OR)

Bernie Sanders (VT)

Tammy Baldwin (WI)