Technicity Times
    Issue 3• June 2003

Get Involved

Cable Franchise Renewal Offers Opportunities for
Community Technology Programs


By James Lau

In Los Angeles, community technology practitioners and supporters have an opportunity to secure resources for community technology programs. This opportunity presents itself as all four cable operators-Adelphia, AOL Time Warner, Comcast, and Charter-renew their cable franchise agreements with the city. Cleveland, Seattle, Atlanta, and other cities have successfully negotiated resources for community technology as part of their cable franchise agreements. For community technology programs in Los Angeles to replicate similar success, those who care about community technology must begin to come together and engage in the cable franchise renewal process.

What is the Cable Franchise?

The cable franchise is the agreement that establishes the type, quality, and level of service the cable company will provide in the city. Also, the cable franchise authorizes the cable provider to lay cable on public property; in exchange, the cable provider pays the city a fee, or "rent", which goes into the city's treasury [and totaled over $20 million for LA in 2001]. In addition to this fee, the cable franchise can also stipulate additional resources, such as equipment and money for public programming purposes, including creating and broadcasting videos.

Successful City Examples

The successes are mounting: Cleveland received $3 million for a technology fund; free cable modem and Internet service for one computer center in each of its 21 city council wards; and a volume discount for Internet service and cable modems for all city facilities, public libraries, computer centers, and primary and secondary schools. Seattle received similar services, but also employs a staff person to assist, coordinate resources for, and strengthen the services and educational quality of community technology programs.

What You Can Do

Securing similar types of resources require involvement by the community. Because all cable franchises are set to expire by the summer of 2004, the city has already begun negotiating with cable operators to meet this deadline. Consequently, the community must get involved now in order to ensure the cable franchise agreement meets the needs of the community.

To learn more about the cable franchise renewal process and how you can get involved, visit Tech Policy Bank (http://www.techpolicybank.org), which explains more about this process and highlights several city examples. In addition, to build a case for why community technology should be included in the cable franchise agreements, invite your city council person-who eventually approves the franchise agreement-to your center and educate your representative about the services your program provides to the community. More importantly, the community can gain much more if they come together, work with other stakeholders, and advocate as one voice. To learn more about how you can get involved, please contact James Lau at (310) 260-1220 or jlau@childrenspartnership.org.


James Lau is technology program manager for The Children's Partnership. He can be reached at jlau@childrenspartnership.org.

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