Cable Franchises and Renewals
We have represented over 200 municipalities in many states on cable franchises and renewals. During the past ten years we have also represented over 30 municipalities on granting a franchise to a second cable company, such as the local telephone company, to build a cable system which will compete with the current cable operator (such as Comcast, Time Warner, Cox or Charter).
We have represented approximately 100 municipalities in connection with transfers or changes in control of their cable systems, such as where the cable system is sold to a different company. Among the items we have addressed in the transfer process are getting assurances that the city and its residents will be no worse off after the transfer than before, resolving outstanding disputes, ensuring adequate customer service after the transfer, and protecting against undue increases in rates.
We represent municipalities on zoning and land use matters for cellular and PCS towers, and have developed a model cellular tower zoning ordinance which has been used by several hundred municipalities. We also assist municipalities in leasing land for cellular/PCS towers (or space on water towers and municipal buildings for cellular/PCS antennas) and developed model forms of leases for such situations. We have filed comments with the FCC on behalf of numerous municipalities opposing FCC attempts to preempt municipal authority over cellular or broadcast towers.
Wireless and Wi-Fi Projects
We have represented communities on wireless and Wi-Fi projects which would provide service for the residents of the municipality, those providing only service to public safety personnel, and those doing both. We have assisted such communities on project evaluation, the contracts by which the municipality obtains service from a provider, and the contracts and pole attachment agreements by which a private company gets permission to put its Wi-Fi access points and the like in the rights of way, on light poles, and on municipal property.
Telecommunications/Rights of Way
We represent municipalities who are franchising or granting permits to new telephone companies to construct facilities and provide service. This includes the development of ordinances to cover the award of franchises or permits to all telephone companies. We represented some of the first communities in the country who franchised a new, local phone company to compete with the current phone company.
We were very active in obtaining provisions in the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 to protect municipalities' rights to franchise telephone companies, manage their rights of way and obtain compensation for its usage, as well as comparable provisions in Michigan telecommunications legislation.
Cable Rate Regulation
We have represented over 200 communities on cable rate regulation matters, FCC complaints, appeals of local rate decisions and other related rate proceedings. This includes representing communities through the complete rate regulation process under Forms 393, 1200, 1205, 1210 and 1220 and the successful settlement of numerous rate disputes. Many of the communities represented by the firm obtained reductions in rates compared to rates originally requested by the cable operator.
Municipally Owned Cable Systems
Some communities provide cable service through a municipally owned system, generally at rates around half that of private cable companies. We have represented several cities with such systems and have assisted cities in their investigation of creating a municipal cable system. We defended one city with a municipal cable system from 1984 to 1992 against Constitutional and antitrust challenges brought by a competing private cable company with higher rates. The firm also represents other municipal cable systems on selected matters.
We were actively involved in securing amendments to the 1992 Cable Act which enhance municipalities' ability to enact customer service ordinances so as to protect their residents; participated in the FCC's customer service rulemakings on national cable customer service standards; and have prepared model cable customer service ordinances for municipalities to use.
Our firm has a large municipal practice. It is municipal attorney for several cities and townships and provides specialized legal services to many other municipalities. As a result, the firm is knowledgeable about municipalities, how they work, and their cost constraints. It brings this experience to bear when working with municipalities on cable matters. Members of the firm for many years have been on the governing council of (and chaired) the Municipal Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Michigan. A member of the firm was Chairman of the Legal Section of the American Public Power Association. The firm is active in the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors.