Cable TV Franchise Agreements Offer Opportunities for Municipalities

May 24, 2013

One of the lesser known responsibilities of municipal officials is contract negotiations for cable television franchises. SEDA-COG has scheduled a series of meetings in June to educate elected and non-elected officials about their rights and potential benefits related to the negotiating process. Meetings are scheduled in Mifflintown, Sunbury, and Montoursville.

Under federal law, municipalities essentially serve as their cable company's "landlord." The companies place cable lines and other equipment in the public rights-of-kids watching TV.

Cable TV services have exploded since the technology was first introduced in Mahanoy City, PA in the late 1940s.
way. The municipalities control those rights-of-way as a public trust, and they are entitled to benefits in return for the cable companies' use of their property.

Depending on the cable company, the benefits from franchise negotiations include increased franchise fee revenue by applying the franchise fee to all revenue sources, a cash franchise grant, free internet service to the municipal building, enforceable customer service standards, a government access channel, and strong right-of-way protections. In many cases, municipal officials simply accept what the cable company offers when, in actuality, they can negotiate for much more.

The potential for increased benefits is even greater if municipalities band together to negotiate franchise agreements. Group negotiations give municipalities more bargaining leverage with the cable companies. The process for working together and the benefits to the municipalities will be fully discussed at the cable TV meetings in June.

Meetings are scheduled at the following times and places:

Mifflintown - June 11, 9:00 am
JP's Pancake House, Stop 35 Plaza, Rt. 35

Montoursville - June 12, 9:00 am
Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority, 216 Old Cement Road.

Sunbury - June 12, 2:00 pm
City Council Chambers, 225 Market St., 2nd Floor

Each of the meetings will last about two hours. There is no cost to participate.

Information at the meetings will be presented by Attorney Dan Cohen of Pittsburgh's Cohen Law Group, which has represented nearly four hundred municipalities in cable-related matters. Mr. Cohen has worked on cable issues for over 20 years.

In addition to SEDA-COG, the meetings are sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs. For questions and registration information, contact Jim Baker, tel. 570-524-4491.

Learn more about SEDA-COG's Information Technologies Group

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