Cable Television (CATV) Franchise Agreements
This page contains information about cable television (CATV) franchise agreements for local governments in Washington State, including information on public access television (PEG channels), examples of cable franchise agreements, links to federal regulations, and other resources.
It is part of MRSC's series on Telecommunications.
Cable television franchise agreements are governed by federal law rather than state law and are negotiated with the cable company. Cable TV franchise fees may be levied at a rate up to 5% of gross revenues from the franchise area every year (47 U.S.C. §542(a) and (b)).
On August 2, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed an order that restricts local government cable franchise fees and agreements. In particular, the order:
- Requires local governments to count most non-monetary "in-kind" contributions toward the maximum 5% franchise fee, and
- Preempts and prohibits local governments from regulating most non-cable services, such as broadband Internet, that are offered over cable systems.
The ruling was published in the Federal Register on August 27 and took effect on September 26, 2019. FCC regulations relating to cable franchising are set forth at 47 C.F.R. 76.41 - 76.43.
Public Access Television ("PEG") Channels
Local governments authorizing cable television franchises may require cable operators to set aside channels for public, educational, or governmental (PEG) use. The channels are:
- Public access channels, which are available for use by the general public and administered either by the cable operator or by a third party designated by the franchising authority,
- Educational access channels, which are used by educational institutions for educational programming (time on these channels is typically allocated by either the franchising authority or the cable operator among local schools, colleges, and universities), and
- Governmental access channels, which are used for programming by local government.
PEG channels are not mandated by federal law; rather, they are a right given to the franchising authority, which it may choose to exercise. If the franchise authority does require PEG channels, that requirement will be set out in the franchise agreement between the franchising authority and the cable operator.
In accordance with applicable franchise agreements, local franchising authorities or cable operators may adopt on their own, non-content-based rules governing the use of PEG channels. For example, rules may be adopted for allocating time among competing applicants on a reasonable basis, minimum production standards may be required, or users may be required to undergo training.
- Bellingham: Access Bellingham Policies (2014)
- Clark County: Programming Policy & Procedures for CVTV (2009)
- Kirkland: Kirkland Television Regulations
- Kitsap County: BKAT Policy Handbook
- Thurston County: Thurston Community Media Operating Policies and Procedures (2018)
- Yakima: YCTV Producer Handbook (2012)
Examples of Cable Franchise Agreements, Codes, and Ordinances
Below are examples of local government cable TV franchise agreements and ordinances related to such agreements.
Master Cable Franchise Ordinances and Codes
- Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 5.30 — Detailed overview of cable franchising regulations and applicant requirements, service area, processes, and more.
- Chelan Municipal Code Ch. 5.28 — Offers an overview of franchise regulations and requirements.
- Enumclaw Ord. 2477 (2011) — Renews franchise with Comcast and includes the franchise agreement.
- Issaquah Ord. 2589 (2010) — Approves renewal of franchise with Comcast and provides a detailed overview of the renewal agreement.
- Kirkland Municipal Code:
- Leavenworth Ordinance 1631 (2021) — Grants a cable TV franchise to Localtel and includes the franchise agreement.
- Maple Valley Municipal Code Ch. 5.20 — A broad overview of cable TV franchising regulations, including fees, performance requirements, consumer protection provisions, installation and repair standards, and more.
- Port Townsend
- Municipal Code Ch. 5.14 — Specifically covers regulation of cable TV franchising.
- Ordinance 3245 — Grants a cable TV franchise to WAVE Division 111, LLC, and includes the franchise agreement.
- Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 21.60 — Requires cable providers to meet certain technical, customer service, and privacy standards.
- Cable Franchises — Offers an overview of the city's current franchises (Comcast, Astound) and links to the most recent franchise agreements for each.
- Cable Customer Bill of Rights — Establishes levels and quality of service for subscribers; includes standards for accessibility.
Agreements with Comcast
- Bellingham cable franchise renewal (2011)
- Comcast Cable Franchise — Notes what the city can and cannot do regarding cable franchising and includes informational needs report and other supporting documents.
- Comcast cable franchise renewal final project report (2011) — Offers an overview of the proposed franchise provisions and financial impacts.
- Blaine cable franchise renewal — (2020) Includes an overview of the substantive changes in the proposed renewal.
- Bothell cable franchise renewal (2011)
- King County cable system franchise (2014)
- Redmond cable franchise agreement (2021)
- Shoreline cable franchise (2020)
Agreements with Other Cable Providers
- Pasco cable franchise agreement, Falcon Video Communications, L.P. (2016)
- Port Angeles cable franchise agreement, WAVE Division III, LLC (2019) — Includes Ordinance 3617 approving the agreement.
- Richland cable franchise, Falcon Video Communications, L.P. (2016) — Includes Ordinance 34-16 approving the franchise.
- Union Gap cable agreement, Falcon Video Communications, L.P. (2018)
Requests for Proposals
- Longview Cable TV Franchise Renewal RFP (2014) — Seeks a consultant to assist the city in renewing its cable franchise agreement (Comcast) or soliciting new cable services.
- Pasco/Richland Cable TV Franchise Renewal RFP (2011) — Seeks a consultant to assist both cities in assessing existing cable franchise service (Charter Communications), conducting outreach to the community regarding cable services, and renewing existing franchise agreements or seeking other providers.
- Seattle Cable TV Franchise Renewal Community Needs Assessment RFP (2013) — Seeks a consultant to conduct a community needs assessment regarding the city’s existing cable provider (Comcast).
- The Buske Group — Private consulting firm whose website includes a file archive with sample documents related to the franchise process such as a community needs assessment, operating rules and procedures, franchise contract, and more.
- Federal Communications Commission: Cable Television — Offer information about federal cable television rules and laws.
- Findlaw: Cable Franchise Renewal and Local Right of Way Management (2017) — Offers an overview of factors to consider in creating or renewing a cable franchise agreement.
- Metropolitan Area Communications Commission (MACC) — Administers the cable franchise agreements for 15 jurisdictions in Washington and Clackamas counties. Website includes the franchise agreement between MACC customers and Comcast.
- The Municipality: Making the Most of the Cable Television Franchise Renewal Process (2002) — Provides an overview of the process and the key issues that arise during franchise renewal.
- The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors — Represents local government jurisdictions and consortiums, including elected and appointed officials and staff who oversee communications, broadband, and technology.
- Washington State Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors — State association composed of individuals and organizations involved in the development, regulation, and administration of cable television and other telecommunication systems.