Franchise could promote competition

Charles Warner Editor

October 23, 2013

UNION — A franchise agreement that would permit BellSouth Telelcommunications to do business in the City of Union could promote competition and give residents a choice of cable video providers according to Mayor Harold Thompson.

In a special meeting Tuesday morning, Union City Council voted unanimously to approve second and final reading of an ordinance “granting consent to application for franchise for cable video service and setting franchise fee.”

The ordinance grew out of a letter sent to City Clerk Gloria Rogers by Shunvyan F. Jenkins, Cable Franchising Coordinator for the Secretary of State’s office, informing the city that BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC d/b/a AT&T South Carolina had filed an application to amend “a State-Issued Certificate of Franchise Authority.”

The ordinance states that under the state constitution, no law may be passed by the S.C. General Assembly granting a utility the right to build and operate lines and facilities on a public street and/or public property “without first gaining the consent of the governing body in control of the streets or public places proposed to be occupied for any such or like purpose.”

It further states that under the “South Carolina Competitive Cable Services Act” there is a state-issued Certificate of Franchise Authority “under which a cable or video service provider may designate by application to the Secretary of State those municipalities in which the provider wishes to operate.”

The municipality the provider wishes to operate must in turn inform the Secretary of State whether it consents to the COFA or not.

Thompson said Tuesday that by consenting to the COFA, the city is allowing the franchise process to proceed. He said while many of the details regarding BellSouth Telecommunications’ plans once it obtains the franchise remain unknown, it is clear the company is looking to do business in Union. This, Thompson said, could benefit the citizens of Union who would be able to choose between the services offered by BellSouth Telecommunications and current provider Charter Communications.

“It’s basically new and we’re not familiar with all the details,” Thompson said. “From what I understand they will be providing video services and also Internet. At what level we are not sure yet, they are working just now to get their franchise so they can do business in Union.

“From the look of it I think it will create some competition in Union,” he said. “That will give the people of Union two choices in the entities that provide those services.”

The second and final reading of the ordinance was held Tuesday instead of at council’s November meeting because of the deadline for the county to reply to Jenkins’ letter.

The letter, which was dated Sept. 19, states that within five days of receipt of an application or amended application, the Secretary of State is required by state law to notify the municipality or county affected of the office’s receipt of the application. The affected county or municipality must then respond to the notification and request for information from the Secretary of State within 65 days.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Finance Director Walker Gallman pointed out that council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19, four days before the deadline for having the ordinance and correspondence turned in to the Secretary of State’s Office. He said that by having second and final reading a week after the first reading, the city would ensure that the required information was in the possession of the Secretary of State’s Office as soon as possible.

The ordinance also states council’s intention to set the maximum franchise fee (five percent) allowed by law on the service once it is offered within the city.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com