FCC Plan: Take Money Away from Local Communities, Give Handout to Cable

From: Mike Wassenaar, President & CEO
The Alliance for Community Media
(952) 928-4643 mwassenaar@allcommunitymedia.org

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to adopt rules on August 1 that will limit the benefits that communities get in return for the corporate use of public property – a move that will cost communities millions of dollars in hidden fees to cable companies and opens the door to further action that may defund community public access television in the future.

So far 17 US Senators, 30 US Representatives and thousands of public commenters have opposed the new regulations on cable television franchising on which the Commission is set to vote Thursday August 1.

Under laws set up by Congress, communities are allowed to charge rent or “franchise fees” for the use of public property and rights-of-way.  Congress capped that rent at 5 percent of gross revenues on cable bills.

Now the FCC is proposing to expand the definition of franchise fees – to include non-monetary support for local communities and Public, Educational and Government Access television – even though Congress intended those fees be only monetary payments.

The proposed rules would allow cable companies to assign market values to these benefits and then charge the amount back to local communities in most cases.   Benefits include items like free cable subscriptions to schools, discounts for the elderly, and fiber connectivity to local government buildings like police departments, fire stations and libraries. 

Will the rules mean reduced cable bills?   Since the FCC doesn’t regulate prices and has prevented local authorities from doing so, the answer is no.   So, consumers may see less local content, local governments will see their budgets shrink, and companies frequently recognized as the most hated  in America will be able to pocket the additional proceeds. 

The Alliance for Community Media opposes the proposed rules and is asking the FCC to modify them to lessen the harm to local communities and to access television in America.  

Video is available here:  https://vimeo.com/348243022

The Alliance for Community Media is a national organization representing Public, Educational and Government Access TV channels across the United States.   More information is available at www.allcommunitymedia.org.

About the author

David the Bruce M.Div, movie reviewer, published author. NBC-TV administrator and camera operator. A magazine publisher and an independent filmmaker He currently works with the Ashland Independent Film Festival and teaches media at RVTV/So Oregon University where he has produced 12 different series with nearly 1000 RVTV shows. He leads all RVTV producers in production credits at Archive.org.

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