FCC Seeks Comment on Local Franchising Authorities Regulating Cable Operators

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The FCC has released a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Second FNPRM) that seeks comment on various issues stemming from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision to remand in Montgomery County, MD v. FCC. The Sixth Circuit’s decision in July 2017 vacated two rulings of the FCC that sought to limit the authority of Local Franchising Authorities (LFAs). The Second FNPRM: (1) advances FCC proposals that are intended to place new entrants and incumbent cable operators on an equal footing and remove obstacles to the deployment of broadband; (2) tentatively concludes, with certain limited exceptions, that cable-related, in-kind contributions required under a franchise agreement should be treated as “franchise fees” subject to the statutory five percent cap on such fees; (3) tentatively concludes that LFAs are prohibited by federal law from using their video franchising authority to regulate most non-cable services (including information services or broadband) offered over cable systems by incumbent cable operators; and (4) seeks comment on whether to apply the proposals and tentative conclusions discussed in the release, as well as prior Commission decisions addressing LFA regulation of cable operators, to state-level franchising actions and state regulations that impose requirements on local franchising. Comments are due 30 days after the Second FNPRM is published in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 60 days after the Second FNPRM is published in the Federal Register.

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