FCC Weighs in on Franchise Reform

While it lacks the power to create a national franchising process, the FCC did its bit Wednesday for competition and choice in cable and video services by voting to institute a 90-day “shot clock” for local approval of franchise applications and sharply curtailing local authorities’ ability to demand build-out requirements as well as other costly concessions from applicants that often do not pertain to service. The ruling means that cable competitors, particularly phone companies which have begin rolling out fiber and IP-based video services in the past year, can gain approval to begin construction in more markets faster. The FCC ruling incorporates provisions found in most franchise reform bills that have been enacted or introduced around the country, taking the nation as a whole that much closer to greater cable and broadband competition. In areas where there is competition for cable and cable-like video services, prices drop and service options improve. Comcast dropped prices, or held the line on rate increases, in markets in Florida and Virginia where Verizon launched its fiber-based FiOS service. After AT&T introduced IPTV service in San Antonio, Time Warner Cable chose the Texas city as a test market for its new “Start Over” feature that allows viewers who tune in late to watch a desired show from the beginning.