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Martin To Take Up Telco Franchise Issues

Saying the FCC had received increasing complaints that local franchising authorities "may" be making it harder for telcos to get video franchises, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told a telco audience that he would try to take up the issue at the commission's November meeting.

In a satellite-delivered speech to at United States Telecom Association Meeting in Las Vegas, Martin pointed out that he has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking into what the FCC should do, if anything, "to fulfill Congress’s directive that franchising authorities not grant exclusive franchises or unreasonably refuse to award additional competitive franchises."

The FCC has a mandate to help speed the rollout of broadband service and a longstanding interest in ramping up multichannel video competition.

There are currently at least two bills that would help telcos bypass local franchising regs in the interest of advancing that rollout, and Texas has passed a law creating a state franchise that does essentially the same thing.

Martin says the FCC's goal should be to "help ensure technological and competitive neutrality in communications markets."

Earlier this year, the FCC removed affirmative internet access obligations on telcos, to square their regulatory obligations with those of cable modem service. That move to level the regulatory playing field, as it were, followed a court decision upholding the FCC's definition of cable as a service free from mandatory access obligations.