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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Lau is technology
program manager for The Children's Partnership. He can be reached