U.S. Mayors Target Cable Broadband Revenue

USCM resolution says FCC policy is denying cities access to millions of dollars in franchise fee revenue

U.S. Mayors Target Cable Broadband Revenue
Photo of Union Station, Kansas City, Missouri, used with permission

WASHINGTON, June 23 2024 – A gathering of American mayors adopted a resolution Sunday designed to obtain fees from cable operators that utilize municipal property to provide consumers with access to the Internet.

The resolution – adopted at the 92nd annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Kansas City, Mo. – called on the Federal Communications Commission to modify a rule that shields cable Internet access revenue from the 5% fee collected on cable's pay-TV revenue.

The mayors' resolution urged the FCC "to act promptly" to modify its "mixed use" rule that they said costs "local governments millions of dollars in reduced franchise and other right-of-way fees and threaten[s] the future of cable franchise access channel and institutional network requirements."

In a recent filing at the FCC, the City of Portland, Ore., claimed the mixed-use rule’s annual cost was $3.75 billion nationally - money that cities could use to support first responders and meet other local needs.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was one of the six co-sponsors of the resolution.

The USCM said it was a non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are over 1,400 such cities in the country today and each one was represented in the conference by the local mayor.

Cities have been feeling pinched because cable franchise fee revenue has been in decline for many years as millions dropped cable in favor of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

In other action, the USCM passed a second resolution announcing opposition to the American Broadband Act of 2023 (H.R. 3557), a bill which the resolution said would "preempt local governments' rights-of-way compensation and management authority, zoning powers, cable franchising authority, and property rights."

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, R-Ga.

“The proposed bill would bestow on broadband providers an unprecedented federal grant of access to state and local public property but impose no obligations on those providers to serve ‘unserved’ and ‘underserved’ Americans,” the USCM resolution said.

In a third resolution, the USCM urged Congress to renew and extend the Affordable Connectivity Program, an Internet subsidy program for low-income households that ran out of money in May.

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