ORIGINAL FRANCHISE AGREEMENTS AND THE CABLE ADVISORY BOARD
In 1984, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, Sylvan Lake, and West Bloomfield granted cable television franchises to Continental Cablevision. Those agreements were transferred to MediaOne in 1997, renewed in 2000, and transferred to Comcast in 2001. (click to view Franchise Agreement) The communities agreed in the process of signing the 1984 agreements that they would participate in the “sharing of administrative areas of common interest” through the creation of an advisory body consisting of representatives appointed by each community.
The Greater West Bloomfield Cable Advisory Board was established in 1985. It consisted of twelve members (six from West Bloomfield and two each from Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, and Sylvan Lake). The Board’s actions were guided by the objectives set forth in its bylaws:
• to provide valuable community information and coverage for all subscribers on Civic Center TV
• to monitor the cable provider’s compliance with the provisions of the franchise agreement and work with the company and the four communities to find solutions to any outstanding issues
• to provide recommendations and rationale to the communities regarding the use of cable resources, including funding and system channels
• to serve as ombudsman for residents with questions or concerns regarding the cable company or any aspect their cable service
In 2001, the four communities directed the Cable Board to operate their shared community/municipal information service, Civic Center TV, providing graphic information and programming to residents.
In October 2009, the Greater West Bloomfield Cable Communications Commission replaced the Cable Advisory Board as the entity created by the four communities in 1985 to fulfill their franchise obligation to “function collectively for the entire franchise system in regards to cable television”.
CHANGES IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS, 1985 – 2010
Since the Cable Board was established in 1985, substantial changes have occurred in the cable industry and local communities’ ability to control their rights-of-way.
Rate regulation ended in 1999, leaving operators free to set prices for their services at any level they deem appropriate. Cable companies have become multi-service providers, offering internet and telephone service in addition to the traditional multi-channel video. Those video offerings provided totally in digital form, forcing subscribers to utilize additional equipment to translate those digital signals or invest in new television receivers. Satellite providers began offering local broadcast television stations, making them a viable option for subscribers. Telephone companies have upgraded their systems to allow them to send video into subscriber’s homes and compete with incumbent cable providers and satellite providers.
In Michigan, the enactment of Public Act 480 (click to view Public Act 480) in 2006 has taken away much of local communities’ ability to negotiate cable franchises with providers on terms which serve their residents, while offering subscribers more, and at times confusing, choices. The law limits the obligations that can be placed on a cable provider, forcing communities to be more strategic and innovative in meeting the needs of residents in terms of video service and access to the communication capabilities of the system.