FCC Releases Cable-Franchise Order

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The Federal Communications Commission Monday released a previously adopted order that gives local governments 90 days to reject or approve cable-service licenses sought by phone companies that already have facilities in city-controlled rights of way.

The FCC’s decision to impose a deadline was designed to provide a measure of certainty to AT&T and Verizon Communications as the two largest phone companies put billions of investment dollars at risk in an effort to break into local video markets.

“Verizon spends more on capital investment than any other American company. It would be difficult to invest so much into broadband and video deployment without common-sense decisions like this one,” said Marilyn O’Connell, chief marketing officer of Verizon Telecom, in a prepared statement.

Local governments are expected to appeal, claiming that the FCC lacks legal authority to impose time constraints on franchising authorities. The cable industry hasn’t committed to go to court.

“We are still reviewing it,” National Cable & Telecommunications Association vice president of communications Brian Dietz said.

The FCC adopted the rules in late December but needed 75 days to finish and release a 68-page order that attempts to justify its conclusion that in many instances, franchise negotiations are taking too and frustrating competition.

The FCC has agreed to announce within six months whether the 90-day rule will apply to incumbent cable operators that are seeking to renew their local franchises.

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