Detroit suing Comcast over franchise responsibilities

Detroit wants Comcast to live up to a 1985 franchise agreement even though Michigan, by law, says it doesn't have to do any such thing.

The 1985 rules required cable operators, as part of their franchise agreements, to perform a variety of free of charge services and provide the appropriate equipment and facilities for communities. A 2006 state law removed most of those requirements so Comcast, since 2007, has been abiding by that rule, much to Detroit's chagrin.

Now Detroit is suing the MSO to put things back the way they were--despite the state law. According to Detroit, Comcast has ceased to provide free drops and service to schools, failed to provide a data network between city buildings, and stopped making payments to support local and educational programming. It also closed local public and educational video studios and stopped providing mobile units, equipment, staff and maintenance, according to a story in BroadbandReports.

The city, which like almost every U.S. metro area is strapped for resources, is using what little money it has to take the matter to court and get the 2006 state law overturned, or at least have the 1985 franchise agreement reinstated.

In a similar but unrelated matter, a bill moving around the U.S. House of Representatives would give the FCC more flexibility in deciding how broadcast and cable operators assure that requirements for disability access to telecommunications equipment meet the changing broadband environment. Most particularly, the operators would need to make equipment changes unless they proved to be "not achievable." The previous wording was a little weaker, demanding operator attention unless it created an "undue burden."

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