Martin pushes 90-day shot clock

by on December 13, 2006 · 6 comments

The FCC website being what it is (or maybe politics being what they are), an agenda is not yet available for the December 20th meeting of the FCC. All eyes are on this meeting because commissioners (including recently de-recused Commissioner Rpbert McDowell) will vote on the AT&T-Bell South merger. However, it now looks like Chairman Martin is also going to take the opportunity to push through a resolution to the cable franchising proceeding that’s been open since January. According to Multichannel News, Martin has circulated a proposed rule that would require local franchising authorities to act on an application for a franchise within 90 days.

Martin, who waited for cable-franchising reform to fizzle on Capitol Hill before shopping his own plan, said FCC pressure on cities and towns to act promptly would produce several benefits, including spurring broadband deployment and lowering cable bills. The 90-day cap would apply to entities that had existing approval to occupy public rights of way presumably phone companies initiating service and cable incumbents seeking renewal. … Martin, who has circulated his plan among the other four FCC members, would like it voted on at the agency’s Dec. 20 open meeting.

There has been a flurry of activity in the docket for this proceeding, so it looks like it might happen. Not having seen the draft rule, I wonder what happens after the 90 days are up. In our recent law review article and comments to the FCC, Jerry Ellig and I proposed just such a regulatory shot clock. We proposed that if a locality doesn’t make a decision either way on an application, then the franchise would be deemed granted with a set of default terms, which could be set the same terms of the incumbent’s franchise, for example. Anybody seen the draft rule?

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