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Commission smoothes process for cable franchises

The FCC has extended the same municipal franchising terms to cable companies that it granted last year to phone companies. This means the franchising process should be the same for incumbents as it is for new entrants into a market.

The FCC majority is seeking to streamline the process by which cable companies renew licenses granted to them by city, town and county governments across the country.

Cable operators had contended that the rules easing the way for telcos left their industry with a competitive disadvantage. The FCC’s new order, approved last week, prevents local franchising authorities from “unreasonably refusing to award competitive cable franchises.”

The measure, passed by a 3-2 Republican majority, was touted as an extension of regulatory parity that would promote competition.

Local governments throughout the nation have opposed the FCC rules, arguing that they infringe on local jurisdictions. In his dissent, FCC commissioner Michael Copps agreed, saying the FCC’s policy short-circuits the franchise negotiation process between new entrants into the video market and local governments.