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FCC launches rulemaking on franchising process

The FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Thursday to determine whether local government entities responsible for granting cable franchises are unreasonably refusing to grant competitive franchises.

The notice also is seeking comment on problems cable incumbents may have with local franchise authorities (LFAs), including how best the commission can ensure the local franchising process is not inhibiting the ability of incumbent cable operators to invest in broadband services.

While the commission tentatively has found that it does have authority to ensure the local franchising process does not serve as an unreasonable barrier to entry for competitive cable operators under Title I and Title VI of the Communications Act, it is seeking comment on whether it has authority to implement the pro-competitive mandate of Section 621(a)(1).

The notice also tentatively concludes that the commission may preempt and supersede any law or regulation of a state or LFA that causes an unreasonable refusal to award a competitive franchise.

If there is a need for the commission to intervene and it has the authority to do so, the notice asks how the commission should interpret its mandate to promote competition.

The notice responds to concerns raised by some telecommunications companies about the local franchising process as they prepare to enter the video distribution market with voice, data and video service offerings.

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