In the February 22 edition of the TML Legislative Update, we raised a concern about Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preemption of municipal right-of-way fees. A local controversy in New York State, coupled with the pending release of the FCC’s “National Broadband Plan (NBP),” could have had serious financial implications for cities across the nation, including Texas cities.

Some telecommunications and cable companies have urged the FCC – as part of the NBP and the New York State proceeding – to adopt a unilaterally-imposed, federal standard for compensation for use of public rights-of-way that would limit municipal fees to the actual costs of regulation.

Since right-of-way rental fees constitute nearly ten percent of many Texas cities’ general revenues, negative FCC action would be a financial disaster. Many Texas cities, along with the Texas Municipal League’s national partners, including the National League of Cities, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, worked hard to protect city authority in this area.

The FCC recently submitted the NBP to Congress. The plan makes recommendations on “improving the business case for deploying and upgrading broadband network infrastructure and facilitating competitive entry.” Among many other specific recommendations for improving broadband infrastructure, the NBP calls on the FCC to “establish a joint task force with state…and local policymakers to craft guidelines for rates, terms and conditions for access to public rights-of-way.” In other words, the FCC has recommended a task force in lieu of unilaterally imposing right-of-way fee standards. It also appears that the FCC will postpone any action on the New York State proceeding pending the input of the task force.

To view the NBP, CLICK HERE. (PDF 7.8MB)

The League will continue to monitor and support the national associations’ efforts to oppose FCC preemption.

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose.
No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the
Texas Municipal League.

Back to Legislative Update Index