Hearing on cable franchise bill is July 22

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The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy will hold a public hearing July 22 on a bill that would require communities to evaluate cable license applications within 95 days – drastically reducing the current 12-month timeframe.

The bill would require municipalities to begin negotiations within 10 days of receiving a cable license application; hold a hearing within 90 days, after providing a minimum of 14 days notice; and approve or deny the application and issue the license (if approved) within five days of the close of the public hearing.

The purpose of the hearing would be to assess the applicant’s qualifications as well as the negotiated terms and conditions of the prospective license.

The bill would also place restrictions on financial support that communities seek in cable contracts for public access, educational and government programming.

The MMA argues that the bill would undermine the ability of local governments to negotiate cable license agreements that are in the best interest of residents by setting an unattainable timeline. The restrictive timeline would also create an incentive for companies to delay the process rather than negotiate in good faith with communities and would limit public input into the licensing process.

Nearly 100 new cable television licenses have been issued in Massachusetts over the last three years under the current system, an indication that the current system is working. Cities and towns support cable competition, but on a fair negotiating field, the MMA maintains.

The House bill (H. 3765) is sponsored by Rep. Michael J. Rodrigues of Westport; the identical Senate bill (S. 1531) is sponsored by Sen. Steven Panagiotakos of Lowell.

Download text of cable franchise bill (128K PDF)