AT&T Asks FCC to Streamline Local Cable Franchising System

Feb 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

AT&T has asked the Federal Communications Commission to streamline the nation’s local cable TV franchising system so phone companies can launch competitive video operations within 30 days of an application. In a filing with the FCC, AT&T said that under the existing system of local franchising regulations, it can take potential competitors years to win a franchise to compete with incumbent cable TV operators.

The new system AT&T wants the FCC to implement would essentially clear the way to launch competing video operations in communities 30 days after applicants certify they will abide by franchise fee, emergency alert and public educational and government access channel obligations. “By drawing this clear demarcation between reasonable and unreasonable cable-franchise regulation of existing rights-of-way holders, the FCC will both preserve legitimate local interests and ensure that broadband infrastructure is deployed and that competitive video service is provided as quickly and broadly as possible,” said Robert Quinn, AT&T senior VP of federal relations, in a statement Tuesday. In a filing at the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters also urged the agency to “take appropriate steps to ensure that the local franchising process does not unreasonably impede the entry of new competitors.”

But in its own filing, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said there is no evidence that phone companies are being stymied by the existing franchising process. “Relieving those competitors from franchise requirements that continue to apply to existing cable operators would distort marketplace competition in a way that harms rather than benefits consumers,” NCTA said. The industry filings come in response to an FCC request for ideas on how to ensure that local franchising authorities aren’t abusing their power by keeping out those who would compete with incumbent operators-a subject that will also be addressed in hearings Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee.