Tuesday, July 22, 2008

City Council Defends, Passes Franchise Agreement with Comcast

Lancaster City Council unanimously passed a cable franchise agreement with Comcast that awards the city 5% of annual gross revenues, despite concerns that the city could have negotiated a better deal.

Mayor Rick Gray believes there was some public misunderstanding about the agreement.

"No one is being granted a monopoly," he said at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. "This isn't even really a franchise."

He asserted that Comast essentially has a legal right to such an agreement.

"Our options are very limited," the Mayor said. Gray said he had been advised that if the City denied the franchise agreement, Comcast could go to federal court and easily have an arrangement set up on their own terms.

Councilman Tim Roschel also defended the agreement, pointing out that "Under federal law, municipalities are allowed to assess a franchise fee of up to 5%. You can't - five percent is the max."

In response to concerns about Comcast's regulation of certain kinds of internet traffic, Gray responded that the agreement does not extend to internet service.

Gray suggested that competition is what will do more than anything else to alleviate concerns about cable television price and content.

He said, "If Verizon made an application to also become a cable TV provider, it would be granted."

Mayor Gray and Councilman Roschel also praised the agreement, saying it gives Lancaster residents additional rights as consumers. It strengthens the complaint process, requires Comcast to submit a customer complaint report to the city, and strengthens the enforcement mechanisms the city has at its disposal to deal with infringements on the part of Comcast.

Additional information about the Franchise agreement is available in the minutes of City Council's July 8th meeting at http://www.cityoflancasterpa.com/lancastercity/cwp/view.asp?A=672&Q=610403.