FCC expands franchising guideline


When the FCFC established "rules and guidance" to prohibit local franchise authorities "from unreasonably refusing to award competitive franchises for the provision of cable services," it left incumbent cable companies subject to the old rules. Today, it extended the new provision to incumbents over the objections of the two Democratic commissioners, who objected to the measure in the first place. The thrust of the earlier order was to make sure local governments did not hinder provision of competition, primarily from telco entrants into the MVPD business, by asking for too much money, too much channel capacity for local government/access channels, or other perks for the local community. It now is saying that cable incumbents should also be free from such "unreasonable" local demands.

RBR/TVBR observation: The Democrats believe the Commission has gone so far past its jurisdiction that it is legislating rather than regulating in defiance of the very principles of federalism. But if the new rules are going to exist, it is only fair that all competitors, new or old, are playing on a level field. Meanwhile, a national franchise regime has stalled indefinitely in Congress, statewide franchise regimes are being put in place here and there, and telcos are expanding their businesses community by community just the way cable started out for the time being.