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COMMISSIONS & REGIONAL PLANNING GROUPS

An advantage in the 1992 Cable Consumer Protection Act for smaller communities is the provision for creating commissions or regional planning groups so that costs for cable franchise regulation and enforcement can be shared. Jurisdictions wishing to work together sign inter-local governmental agreements and transfer cable and telecom management authority to a "commission or council of governments." Commissions typically manage franchise renewals, modifications, transfers, monitor compliance with customer service and technical standards and conduct telecom infrastructure planning, management, implementation and operating functions.

Commissions also develop telecom policy, establish procedures for regulating rates, develop right-of-way (ROW) fee structures to comply with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and implement public, educational and government access programs. By forming commissions, communities advantageously position themselves to build and operate, through municipally owned and public/private partnerships, wireless broadband and fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks that create a competitive local telecom business environment.

Commissions are funded in several different ways. The most common “start-up” method used is to charge each member community a flat cost per resident in the first year and a percentage of franchise and ROW fees in subsequent years. Other methodologies include creating membership categories, prorating costs based on population and developing cooperative usage fee structures.

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