On Thursday, August 1, 2019, the FCC took several actions to address persistent, decades-long efforts by local governments to convert their control over local rights-of-way into ever-increasing revenue streams from cable operators and other communications companies relying on those critical corridors for the provision of electronic communications. The FCC clarified that:
- Federal law and FCC regulations preempt any state or local action of a cable operator’s non-cable services (e.g., voice, broadband, wireless) that imposes obligations on franchised cable operators beyond what the Communications Act allows;
- In-kind grants of equipment and capital items must be calculated as an offset to the Cable Act’s 5% cap on franchise fees payable to local franchising authorities (“LFAs”), with limited statutory exceptions for costs associated with Public Educational and Governmental (“PEG”) channels;
- LFA demands that cable operators renounce or waive federal limits on local oversight of cable are unlawful; and
- Federal protections apply to state-level franchising authorities as well as to local governments.