The rules that will govern how statewide cable television providers renew their licenses are being created by the California Public Utilities Commission. A comment period about the rules concludes Jan. 24.
The rules document can be found HERE.
The process is needed because the original statewide cable television franchises are set to expire on their 10-year anniversary in 2016 after they originally were authorized under the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA).
Under the constraints of the DIVCA law, the proposed renewal rules essentially will operate like the applicant is applying for its original license again.
The only provision for non-renewal according to the report would be “if the video service provider is in violation of any final nonappealable court order with respect to any provision of DIVCA.”
Furthermore, any type of public comment about whether to grant a renewal would be restricted exclusively to whether the applicant is under such a court order.
A lawsuit filed in 2009 alleged AT&T violated the DIVCA rules. A court trial followed in 2011. A decision has not been rendered. The case was brought by the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission (SMCTC) and the cities of Los Angeles and El Segundo.
Locally, most cable providers operate primarily under local, and not statewide, franchise permissions. Examples include the Comcast and SureWest Cable systems.
Local franchising is based historically on the need for cities and counties to give cable providers permission to dig up the streets to lay the cable that provides video/internet connections. In exchange for this right-of-way permission, the cable company pays a franchise fee to the government agency.
These fees, amounting to approximately $12 million in Sacramento County, are then used to pay for essential services (police, fire, roads) and other needs, including the expenses of operating local cable channels that provide public, educational and government access programming.
In Sacramento County, public access is provided on channels 17 and 18 by Access Sacramento. Educational Access is provided on channels 15 & 16 by the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium and on channel 7 (KVIE-2) by television station KVIE-TV 6. Government Access is provided on channel 14 by Metro Cable.
Religious access programming is provided on Comcast channel 20 and SureWest channel 20 by Sacramento Faith TV, but this channel is entirely self-funded and receives no franchise fee funding.