NATOA Seeks to Protect Local Rights-of-Way

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San Diego -- The National
Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
has planned a campaign to
educate state lawmakers who are considering legislation that would undermine local
authority over public rights-of-way.

As its first step, NATOA officials used their annual
conference here last week to release a set of rights-of-way principles that will be
circulated among state legislators.

"Many local-government groups are becoming
increasingly concerned about legislation that tends to negatively impact local
rights-of-way authority," said outgoing NATOA president Tom Weisner, in a prepared

NATOA committee chairman Adrian Herbst said the principles
are meant to counter "common arguments" made by the telecommunications industry
in successfully promoting state laws that limit municipal authority over local

"Things like, 'Cities are greedy and just want to
collect money from the use of rights-of-way.' 'Cities don't have the legal
authority to require a franchise from us.' 'We've been granted a franchise
in the past from the city, and we are grandfathered in, so we don't have to have to
comply with new requirements from the cities,'" Herbst said.

Those arguments have produced state laws in recent years
curbing local authority over rights-of-way, including legislation limiting everything from
the right to collect fees from telecommunications companies operating on public property,
to whether a city can operate its own telecommunications network.

"The industry that has enjoyed a monopolistic position
for many years perhaps doesn't want to have competition," Herbst said.  The
four NATOA principles state that:

• Cities have a duty and obligation to bear the costs
of acquiring and maintaining public rights-of-way;

• Commercial use of public property for private profit
requires equitable, fair and reasonable compensation;

• Both public and private entities have roles to play
in the delivery of advanced telecommunications services to all Americans; and

• Federal, state and local governments each have roles
in ensuring that the goals of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 are achieved, and each
must respect the authority of the others.

"At least with that last one, there's a feeling
that legislators have ignored local government," Herbst said.