In theory, statewide video franchises, which create a single statewide simplified process of offering video services, could have benefits for the public, such as increasing competition. Unfortunately, however, the legislation enacted so far does not include strong enough consumer protections or broadband deployment requirements. The public services lost by state video franchising bills, outweigh any potential gains that might result due to increased competition.
Under state video franchises, providers need to secure only one permit instead of a permit for each individual community. Therefore, state video franchising takes control away from the local municipalities, reduces consumer protections , and undermines local deployment requirements. In the past, municipalities have leveraged permits for cable companies to use public rights-of-way, as a means to demand carriers supply certain public interest services. States have not taken the same initiative to negotiate franchise agreements which protect necessary public services that are in the public interest. At the close of the 2007 legislative session approximately 15 states had enacted some form of video franchising bills. While some of these bills offered limited PEG (public access and government channels) or build-out requirements, all fell short of adequately protecting the public interest.
The major public interest elements that should be included in any video franchising bill are protection of PEG channels; broadband access provided for certain public institutions, like schools; strong build-out requirements; and ongoing regulation of the industry by state authorities to ensure that the entire community, not just the wealthy are offered service. If states must consider state franchising bills, they should set higher consumer protections standards in the legislation.
The best model video franchise bill proposed so far is New York's AO1423 , sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky , has adequate build-out standards, requiring companies receiving statewide franchises to make service available to large communities across New York within 3 years and to small communities within 6 years. The bill would also protect certain municipal regulatory powers, strong local franchise fees, a set number of PEG channels, provide other high-speed Internet services for local communities, and establish network neutrality provisions.
Free Press - Video Franchising
Wisconsin Technology Network