If you ask telco execs, lobbyists and the FCC
, local video franchise agreements are the worst kind of bureaucracy. Towns are little more than greedy parasites that make absurd demands at every opportunity and rarely have local residents' interests in mind. Telco lobbyists suggest that the existing franchise system needs a lobotomy, and by replacing the current system with statewide or federal system, they can speed up next-gen broadband and IPTV deployment.
If you ask municipalities, they'll tell you that local video franchise agreements are the only leverage they have against massive corporations that have no real interest in the community they serve. Franchise agreements allow them to hold companies accountable for poor service and ensure deployment to more rural areas. Local town leaders argue this franchise "reform"
push will allow companies to cherry pick their communities, leaving massive swaths of the country un-served -- while taking authority and revenue away from localities.
As AT&T deploys "Project Lightspeed,"
they've argued they don't need to follow franchise agreements whatsoever and have sued any locality that has challenged this position. Back in June we interviewed
Peter Collins, the IS Manager for Geneva, Illinois; Collins says his town is doing battle with AT&T in court because they want some say in cabinet placement
and fair broadband deployment. Ars Technica
is running a good piece that explores this largely overlooked debate.