NOT MUCH ACTIVITY IN STATE CABLE FRANCHISE LAWSUIT

Senate Bill 5, which authorized a state-issued certificate of franchise authority for cable and video providers, became law in 2005. Some cable companies were opposed to certain provisions of the bill, and they filed a case in federal court a day after the bill’s effective date.

In Texas Cable and Telecommunications Association v. P.U.C. Commissioners, the Texas Cable and Telecommunications Association (TCTA) challenged the “grandfathering” provision in Senate Bill 5. That provision requires incumbent cable providers to fulfill obligations under existing franchise agreements until those agreements expire.

The lawsuit was filed on September 8, 2005. In 2006, the court dismissed the case on procedural grounds. In 2007, the TCTA appealed the dismissal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2008, the Fifth Circuit issued its opinion and concluded that the TCTA’s claims deserve consideration by the trial court.

The case has since languished in the trial court. However, TCTA recently filed a letter with the judge in an apparent attempt to “get things moving” in the case. The letter cites a recent Texas Public Utility Commission report concerning possible “redlining” by state franchise holders. (Redlining is when a company discriminates against certain geographic, income, or ethnic areas.) The TCTA claims that the report supports its argument that holding its members to existing franchise requirements discriminates against those members.

Motions for summary judgment have been pending in the trial court for more than a year. TML will continue to monitor developments in the case, but it appears almost moot because only a handful of grandfathered cable franchises remain in existence.

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