There are several U.S. congressional initiatives to strip the power to regulate street and public right-of-way management from cities and counties and allow communication and utility companies to do as they want on public right-of-ways. Our elected representatives are only hearing from the supporters of the legislation (utilities, communication companies etc.), so it is important that residents contact our elected representatives and insist that the City of Lakeland have the right to regulate our right of ways.
We have all seen the results of utilities running over cities and using the right of ways as they see fit.
Passage of any of these bills would create the situation for telephone and cable companies to run willy-nilly over the rights of citizens with the resulting drainage problems, street damage, trees ripped out etc. creating substantial expenses and damage to the City and our natural environment. While the franchise payments are also a concern, our first concern is that cities and counties would lose the right to regulate the right of ways and maintain a safe environment for residents.
We would have more un-repaired and damaged streets and sidewalks, drainage problems, destroyed trees and pits from poorly backfilled trenches than we even have thought about not. (Actually, our main utility, MLGW, is trying very hard to work with us on complying with our regulations and standards, but all of this progress would be lost with the passage of any of these bills as outside companies would have the right to use our right of ways without sufficient oversight.)
A recent E-Mail from the Tennessee Municipal League emphasizes the problem. I have reprinted it below for your information and action.
On Sept. 6 members of Congress returned to Washington after an August
recess. It is anticipated that a push to mandate national franchising
of cable and video services will again be underway.
A number of bills previously introduced in Congress will be the
Vehicle used in these efforts. This push to establish national franchising would significantly alter or eliminate a local government's ability to manage streets and sidewalks, provide for public safety, enhance competition, and collect compensation for private use of public land.
Most damaging is S. 1504, the "Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice
Act," a wholesale rewrite of the Communications Act introduced on July
27, 2005, by Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.). This bill will eliminate or
nationalize the cable and video franchising process, depriving local
governments of an important mechanism to manage and receive
compensation for the use of public rights-of-way. Below is a detailed analysis of this legislation:
The bill would immediately do away with all existing local franchise
agreements. The new provisions would be applicable to all video service
providers, both existing cable companies and new entrants.
Although the bill retains the current five percent gross revenue cap on
franchise fees, it limits the revenues from these fees in two ways: 1)
by limiting these fees to the cost of managing the rights-of-way; and 2) providing four-and-a-half pages of exceptions to what can be included in the gross revenue costs, gutting existing contractual agreements.
The bill prohibits municipalities from charging fees for issuing
construction permits needed to install or upgrade facilities.
Video providers would be required to offer only four public educational
And governmental (PEG) channels, far below what many communities utilize today.
The municipal broadband provisions would impose additional layers of
bureaucracy and procedure on local government and hamper broadband
The bill would remove the law that ensures cell phone towers, like all
Other towers, are subject to local zoning laws. (my emphasis-RW)
In addition, H.R. 3146 introduced by Congresswoman Blackburn (R-TN) and
S.1349 by Congressman Wynn (D-MD) are both entitled the "Video Choice
Act."Similar to S. 1504, these bills also attempt to nationalize the
Franchising process of cable and video services. Though not as restrictive as S. 1504,these bills continue to strip local control. Listed below is a summary of the bills:
Without a franchise agreement, many of the important mechanisms that
Local government uses to manage their rights-of-way, ensure competition for everyone, and collect franchise fees are eliminated.
The bills do not allow local government to obtain support funding for
Public educational and governmental (PEG) channels or to obtain Institutional networks for local government needs such as fire, police, or other government workers.
While the bills prohibit economic redlining against poorer citizens,
They remove any enforcement of the provision.
Congressional offices are only hearing from supporters of this issue.
Please make your senator or representative aware of your municipality's
opposition to any legislation that would alter or eliminate the local
control over franchising of cable and video services. Below are
contact numbers for their Washington offices:
Tennessee Congressional Delegation
Sen. Lamar Alexander
Rep. Harold Ford Jr.
Sen. Bill Frist
Rep. Bart Gordon
Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Rep. Bill Jenkins
Rep. Jim Cooper
Rep. John Tanner
Rep. Lincoln Davis
Rep. Zach Wamp
Rep. John J. Duncan Jr.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD-CALL, E-MAIL OR FAX THEM AND ASK THEM TO VOTE AGAINST THESE BILLS AND PROTECT OUR RIGHT TO LOCALLY MANAGE OUR PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAYS!