December 12th, 2018
The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman
The Honorable Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner
The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner
The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner
Federal Communications Commission
455 12th Street, Southwest
Washington, DC, 20544
RE: MB Docket No 05-311 In the Matter of Implementation of Section 621(a)(1) of the Cable
Communications Policy Act of 1984 as Amended by the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992
Brookline Cable Community Trust dba Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) appreciates the opportunity to file comments on the Second Further Notice and Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) in the above-referenced docket. We are writing today in response to comments on MB Docket No. 05-311 the FCC Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Second FNPRM). We believe that this proposed rulemaking would utterly damage and possibly destroy an essential community resource.
Our community relies on franchise fees and the in-kind services (such as senior discounts, inet drops to school buildings, and community cable channels) currently provided by cable companies operating within Brookline in exchange for these commercial interests to use the public-right-of-way.
Any reduction in any aspect of what is payment required for this public-right-of-way in exchange for current, contracted and locally-negotiated in-kind services, part of the franchise fees, by the Town of Brookline and BIG, its independent, nonprofit community cable organization, would cause considerable harm to our Brookline community, its residents,and in particular its seniors and K-12 students who are served by these in-kind services and by the franchise fees that support our community media center, BIG, and our community cable channels.
We believe that this result being proposed would be contrary to both the spirit and intent of Congress’ Cable Act of 1984, and other legislative history since. This proposed change is an arbitrary interpretation inventing methods for defining “in-kind” contributions and classifying them as franchise fees subject to the five percent cap is a fundamental alteration of the Cable Act, specifically section 622 governing franchise fees. We seek comment on this analysis.
In section 20 of the Second FNPRM, the FCC writes “The fact that the Act authorizes LFAs to impose such obligations does not, however, mean that the value of these obligations should be excluded from the five percent cap on franchise fees.” This logic does not hold. The itemized exemptions to franchise fees would not include items explicitly granted in addition to franchise fees which is clearly the case in the Telecommunications Act.
The exemption of such channels would cripple the support franchise fees provide and make the channels inoperable and this unjust interpretation of the act would undermine the very structure it is designed to support.
In our community alone, classifying currently in-kind, locally-negotiated contributions within the five percent cap for franchise fees, would mean a loss of $458,000 of in-kind fiber donations to our town and schools, the loss of thousands in funds to the town of Brookline, and tens of thousands for the operation of our community media channels, government meeting coverage, and our engaged PEG organization, Brookline Interactive Group (BIG).
By allowing cable operators to reduce franchise fee support for local communities, the FCC’s FNPRM severely diminishes the ability of towns and cities and PEG channels to serve communities such as ours. We ask that it not be adopted.
Thank you for your consideration.
Ann K. Bisbee,
Brookline Community Cable Trust dba Brookline Interactive Group
Addendum & Local Background:
Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) serves over 58,000 residents and has done so for the past 34 years in Brookline, part of the greater Boston metro area. We are an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, and our membership is free and open to all. And we are deliberately, explicitly, a nonpartisan organization. All political opinions, popular or otherwise, are welcome, as well as all forms of expression.
BIG’s community media resources have enabled thousands of local residents, hundreds of nonprofit organizations, and countless youth, seniors, municipal and school committees, and government departments to gain economy-building traditional and new media skills, to create and distribute critical, timely and compelling community information, and to provide news, information and emergency services to the town of Brookline and its residents, including health and safety alerts, and over 700 hours of government meetings, town meetings, and local proceedings annually over two community cable access channels.