With FCC chmn Kevin Martin pushing for a vote on his franchise plan at next Wed’s open meeting, cable continues to question whether the FCC has the statutory authority to get involved in local video franchising decisions. "I think it’s a perfectly legitimate argument to question what the right role is …" NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow told Cfax. He acknowledged that some press reports indicate Martin may be considering regulations that are more pro-telco, but he added, "I don’t want to assume an outcome yet." If reports are true, though, it suggests a "significant curtailment" of local control for the franchising process, McSlarrow said. Martin’s proposal includes giving cities and towns 90 days to act on franchise applications filed by phone companies. McSlarrow said he’s not dismissive of what the FCC might end up doing to streamline the franchising process for telcos, but believes what ultimately matters is cable’s ability to execute the bundle and get out in front of the competition. "I think the window that the Bells had to tie cable’s hands … was in 2005 and they missed it," he said. On Tues, the National League of Cities, Natl Assoc of Counties, US Conference of Mayors and NATOA sent a letter to the FCC opposing the video franchising draft order, making many of the same points as McSlarrow. The groups say the Communications Act doesn’t give the FCC legal authority to take action in changing the way franchises are granted without Congressional approval, and that it does not have the authority to dictate the terms and conditions of franchises given by local franchising authorities. "To take action on this order without first establishing clear legal authority in this matter would only lead to litigation and delay, having the exact opposite effect the Chairman is seeking," the groups wrote. "There is no real urgency here, just the pleadings of a very powerful industry." The local govts are also concerned that there is not build-out protection to ensure that more than "just a privileged few" receive competition. "The most widely and quickly deployed broadband networks are owned by the cable industry—the very industry that has complied with local build-out requirements," the letter said.

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