The following is the text of a handout that our Special Counsel provided for the public with some general guidelines about the process:
Cable Television Franchise Ascertainment Public Hearing
December 4, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
Background and Purpose of Public Hearing
· In October 2001, the Town of Moultonborough and Adelphia Cable Communications entered into a Cable Television Franchise Agreement under which the Town granted to Adelphia the non-exclusive right to construct, operate and maintain facilities necessary for the maintenance and operation of a cable system throughout the Town.
· The franchise agreement provided that it would remain in full force and effect until March 19, 2017; and that such agreement would be automatically extended for an additional five years unless either party notified the other in writing of its desire to terminate the agreement at least one year before March 19, 2017.
· Adelphia subsequently filed for bankruptcy and Time Warner Cable (“TWC”) assumed the rights and obligations of Adelphia’s contract with the Town.
· Section 626 of the Communications Act of 1934 (“Cable Act”) provides that a cable operator may request the commencement of the franchise renewal process during the 6-month period which begins with the 36th month prior to the franchise expiration. If the cable operator makes such a request, the Issuing Authority must begin ascertaining the community’s cable-related needs and interests within six months of receiving the cable operator’s request.
· TWC by letter dated June 6, 2014 made a request for the commencement of the renewal process.
· The Town of Moultonborough commenced this proceeding, resulting in this public hearing, during the 6-month period under Section 626 (within 6 months of the June 6, 2014 TWC commencement letter).
· Pursuant to Section 626 (a)(1) of the Cable Act, the purpose of this public hearing is to: (1) identify the future cable-related needs and interests of the community; and (2) to review the performance of the cable operator during the current franchise term.
· Upon completion of the present public hearing process, the cable operator seeking renewal of a franchise may submit a proposal for renewal of the franchise. Upon submittal by a cable operator of a proposal for the renewal of a franchise, the franchising authority (the Town of Moultonborough) shall provide prompt public notice of such proposal. The Town shall then either renew the franchise or issue a preliminary assessment that the franchise should not be renewed, in which case, at the request of the franchise operator or on its own initiative, commence an administrative proceeding, with public notice of the proceeding, to determine whether the cable franchise should be renewed.
Tonight’s Public Hearing
At tonight’s public hearing, any testimony and evidence that relates to future cable-related needs and interests of Moultonborough or the performance of the prior cable operators (Adelphia and Time Warner) may be presented. This would include, but not be limited to, evidence and testimony regarding the following:
· The extent of cable services and programs to be provided under any renewal contract.
· The cost of cable services to subscribers.
· The cable operator’s billing practices.
· Whether discounts for seniors should be available.
· Potential expansions or upgrades of the existing cable system.
· The timeframe for the cable operator making any such expansions or upgrades.
· Procedures for responding to subscriber complaints.
· Whether the cable operator has the financial, legal and technical ability to provide adequate services, facilities and equipment desired by the community.
· Whether and to what extent the cable operator should provide channels for the local origination of public access, educational and governmental (“PEG”) programming.
· Whether and to what extent the cable operator should provide facilities and equipment to be used by Moultonborough residents, Town employees and officials, non-profit groups and school employees.
· Whether and to what extent free service should be provided to municipal buildings, including police, fire, schools, libraries, and other public buildings.
· Provisions for using the cable system to notify citizens in the event of an emergency.
· The term and duration of any renewal contract.
· The standards for requiring the cable operator to provide service in specific areas of town.
· The amount of the franchise fee to be paid by the cable operator (presently 2%, up to 5% allowed under Cable Act).
· Cable operator insurance and indemnification provisions.
· Any other matter reasonably related to future cable-related needs and interests of the community and the performance of the prior and present cable operators.
While issues of pricing, specific channel arrays, and internet services may be of deep concern to many person and while the BoS may negotiate there are limits as to what the regulations allow the Board to negotiate.
That said, the BoS may advocate for the [public’s interest outside these limits but do understand their ability to require TWC to take specific actions is limited if not non-existent.
Note: Renewal of a franchise can only be denied for one or more of the following reasons (47 U.S.C.A. §546(d)):
1. The cable operator has not substantially complied with the material terms of the existing franchise and with applicable law.
2. The quality of the operator's service, including signal quality, response to consumer complaints, and billing practices, but without regard to the mix or quality of cable services or other services provided over the system, has not been reasonable in light of community needs.
3. The operator does not have the financial, legal, and technical ability to provide the services, facilities and equipment it has proposed to provide.
4. The operator's franchise renewal proposal is not reasonable to meet the future cable-related needs and interests of the community, taking into account the cost of meeting such needs and interests.