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Cable Franchising

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Community Needs Assessment &
Cable Franchise Negotiations

While there have been 20 states that have passed statewide or state-issued cable franchising laws, in most states local cable franchising continues.  It is important for local governments to know what their communities need and know their rights under the Cable Acts of 1984 and 1992.

Local Franchising Authorities (LFA’s) need to undertake a comprehensive study of the cable operator’s performance and future community needs. This “needs assessment” should begin during a six-month window starting at the thirty-sixth month before the franchise is due to expire. 

What is involved in a “needs assessment” or “needs ascertainment?”
The process begins by collecting all the documents pertaining to the current franchise and evaluating them in light of current and emerging technological trends.

         

 These documents include:

  • The Franchise Agreement
  • Codes or ordinances pertaining to the cable operator or the Franchise Agreement
  • Records of performance and complaint
  • Any modifications of the Agreement
  • Review of any state laws affecting franchising

    In addition to existing documents the needs assessment should involve
  • Conducting studies to determine existing or future plant build outs or improvements
  • Analyzing technical standards compliance of the cable operator
  • Undertaking financial audits of the cable operator

The renewal process is a time to really dig deep and determine how your community will be served for the next ten or fifteen years. It is a time to assess Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access facilities and determine if the current equipment, channel capacity and franchise terms relating to PEG are adequate to meet  projected community needs.

For that reason it is important to bring the “end-users” together to discuss what their needs really are. Do the fire and police departments need an I-net? Are there “emergency override” procedures in place? How is distance learning being delivered by the school district, community college or university? Is Public access able to serve non-profits and individuals or do they simply not have the resources they need? What about the digital capabilities of PEG? Do you want fully interactive capability for groups and residents?

The community’s determination of its requirements will help drive negotiation of the final Franchise Agreement. The “needs assessment” is something that cannot be left to chance, it must be deliberate and it must engage the community. While it may seem that this is a long, involved process, it will ultimately be beneficial for many years to come.