Commentary

The Mackinac Center Looks at Franchise Reform

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan makes the case for cable franchise reform in a new paper by Diane S. Katz published Sept. 19. Timed to coincide with hearings on Michigan House Bill 6456, which would create a statewide video franchising structure, “Assessing the Case for Franchise Reform” praises the creation of a uniform franchise requirement that would be administered by the Michigan PUC. This will speed entry of competition into local cable markets, as Katz shows through data from states like Texas and California that already have legislated statewide franchising. Still, Katz rightfully criticizes the bill for not permitting incumbent cable to convert to a statewide franchise agreement upon entry of a competitor. While statewide franchising is a practical way of streamlining cable regulationsââ?¬â??the regulations themselves will continue to adversely affect roll-out and may, in the end, wed franchise revenues to the cable model, which is being challenged by Internet video downloading services. Katz writes:

“As a matter of policy, there is little rationale for main¨taining a franchise regime of any sort. The development of competitive video alternatives to cable undercuts the primary justification for municipal franchising. Moreover, state law would still empower communities to manage public rights-of-way in the absence of municipal franchising. Unfortunately, resistance to reform runs strong among those with a vested interest in the status quo ââ?¬â?? that is, municipalities and the cable industry. But enhancing consumer benefits and technological innova¨tion matters far more than preserving regulators’ powers or special-interest advantages.”

Download “Assessing the Case for Franchise Reform” here.

Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.

Titch's work primarily focused on telecommunications, the Internet and new media. He is a former managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News (IT&T News) published by the Heartland Institute. His columns have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Total Telecom, and America's Network, among others.

Prior to joining Reason in 2004, Titch covered the telecommunications industry as a journalist for more than two decades. Titch was director of editorial projects for Data Communications magazine where he directed content development for supplemental publications and special projects. He has also held the positions of editorial director of Telephony, editor of Global Telephony magazine, Midwest bureau chief of CommunicationsWeek, and associate editor-communications at Electronic News.

Outside of the telecom industry, Titch conducted rich media and content development for publishers and corporate marketing groups. He has also developed and launched his own web-based media, including SecuritySquared.com, an on-line resource for the security industry.

Titch graduated cum laude from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and English.