The placement of cable plant over a city street, even when the wire doesn't touch municipal property, is a use of a right-of-way, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled recently.
The decision reversed a lower court ruling that found a non-franchised cable operation in Mason City, Iowa, was appropriate because a business owner had not attached his fibers to any city-owned poles or touched the street.
The case began in Cerro Gordo County District Court last year, when Mason City raised objection to a mini-cable system installed by City Center of Mason City Inc. The town's franchised cable provider is AT&T Broadband.
City Center set up a satellite dish on its roof to receive video services, then decided to string cable plant to an apartment two blocks away to sell the services there.
The city told the business it needed a franchise. City Center attorneys responded that the firm had easements to attach its plant to private buildings and wasn't using public rights-of-way, so no franchise was required.
The state Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 10 that City Center's presence in the airspace above the right-of-way has an impact on the municipality's ability to operate and manage the right-of-way.