This afternoon the FCC voted 4-0 to initiate an NPRM "to ensure [a] reasonable franchising process for new video market entrants." The announcement is timely and in keeping with Chairman Martin's announced interest in the topic from early in the summer. Increasingly, state legislatures have shown interest in the process and this year there was activity in New Jersey, Virginia and Texas on the issue.
It is quite possible that Congressional action may supersede the Commission's investigation, but at this time, building a record about what actually happens where the rubber meets the road is a useful role for the Commission. Tip of the hat to Chairman Martin for taking this step. Among its other effects, the NPRM should help explain the limits of the Commission's authority on the matter. And as the title of this entry suggests, it puts others on notice that the Chairman is resourceful in his efforts to promote broadband deployment and competition. Finally, the NPRM is an opportunity to sort the rhetoric from the legal and economic realities of the marketplace. To date, my chief complaint with the debate over franchise regulation is the unnecessary and unhelpful conflation of right-of-way law and franchise law. One consensus-based approach, and very sensible to my mind, on how to sort through these issues is here.