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Cable franchise agreements 101

Updated: 05/10/2019

In the next couple of months, you may hear about the City Council discussing a franchise agreement with Comcast. Franchise agreements are agreements between a city and a cable TV provider that authorize the cable provider to distribute services within a city. The City of Shakopee currently has franchise agreements with two cable TV providers, Comcast and CenturyLink. The current agreement with Comcast has been in place since 2004 and expires in August 2019; the current CenturyLink agreement expires in August 2021.

One common misconception about franchise agreements is that they bar new providers from entering in to the market. This is not true. In fact, Minnesota Statute 238.084 Subd 1(d) requires that franchise ordinances in a city must be nonexclusive. Because of this law, any company who wants to provide cable services in the city can apply for a franchise and would be approved for a franchise if they meet certain terms outlined in statutes and federal law.   

A franchise is simply authorization from the city to operate within the city boundary, and it sets forth requirements for the cable provider to meet. Some standard requirements are:

  • Providing government access channels so cable subscribers can view local public meetings and city/school district/county government content.
  • Ensuring that a cable provider is providing equitable access to the community, meaning the provider will not provide service only to higher value areas of the city.
  • Establishing certain customer service, customer privacy and consumer protection requirements.
  • Setting for the terms for certain fees to be paid by the cable provider which go to support right-of-way management in the city and government access equipment. 

Be on the lookout for more information about cable franchises during the summer months.

  1. Updated: 05/10/2019