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Cable Committee Members File Petition with City Council

By Tom Marino | May 6, 2024
Last Updated: May 6, 2024

WORCESTER – Two members of the Cable Television Advisory Committee, including its chairperson, John Keough, filed a petition on Monday, May 6, to Worcester City Council to vote to support the unanimous recommendations of the committee to deny renewal of the Charter Spectrum franchise license in Worcester.

The petition requests:

“That the City Council vote on a recommendation that the City Manager adopt the recommendations of the Cable Television Advisory Committee found in their report issued in March. Specifically that they take up a vote to recommend that the City Manager not renew the license with Charter Spectrum.”

The petition will not be heard on Tuesday, May 7, as the petition was not filed prior to the deadline to comply with the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

As This Week in Worcester previously reported, the Cable Television Advisory Committee issued a report in March recommending the City Manager deny renewal of the license agreement. The committee voted in support of the recommendations unanimously.

On Wednesday, May 1, City Manager Eric Batista wrote in a blog post that he intends to renew the contract with Charter Spectrum.

In the latest This Week in Worcester Podcast, episode 7 of 2024, Keough said that Batista’s  public announcement leaves “no negotiation position for the city anymore,” now that Spectrum knows there’s no chance of denial. He also said the committee believes that Charter Spectrum has failed in all four areas federal regulators examine to determine if a franchise license holder complied with its contract with a municipality.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations govern the renewal process with a cable television provider. A provider is entitled to renewal, unless they have failed to comply with the contract. If a municipality denies renewal of a franchise agreement, federal regulators conduct a review to determine if the provider has complied with the contract. The burden of proof is on the provider to demonstrate they have complied. The provider is also responsibility for the cost of that federal review.

No cable television provider has an exclusive contract with a municipality. Exclusive cable television franchise agreements are prohibited by federal law. This 2021 article explains that cable and broadband companies frequently do not challenge the territory of others. This 2014 article discusses the same topic in the context of the then proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger.

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