The MHCRC’s Role
The Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission advocates for and protects the public interest in the regulation and development of cable communications systems in Multnomah County and the Cities of Fairview, Gresham, Portland, Troutdale and Wood Village; monitors and helps resolve cable subscribers’ concerns in these jurisdictions; and participates in the planning and implementation of community use of cable communications technologies which make use of the public right of way.
The MHCRC is made up of eight dedicated citizen volunteers, backed by professional office staff. The MHCRC was created by Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) among the cities of Fairview, Gresham, Portland, Troutdale, and Wood Village and Multnomah County (“Jurisdictions”) in an effort to provide enhanced public benefits from cable communications franchising and regulation, and economies of scale in its operation. The MHCRC reports to the City Councils of Portland, Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview, and the Multnomah County Commission. It is the decision-making body for approximately $6 million annually in public benefit franchise assets and has an annual operating budget of about $377,000. The cable franchises generate nearly $6 million in General Fund revenues for the City of Portland and approximately $1.2 million for the City of Gresham; $151,000 for Multnomah County; $187,000 for Troutdale; $111,000 for Fairview; and $32,000 for Wood Village.
This unified regulatory commission carries out cable regulation by:
- Providing consumer protection for citizens and subscribers in cable television matters, including complaint resolution
- Determining grant recipients for the Community Access Capital Grant, a competitive grant program which allocates about $1.5 million annually to libraries, schools, local governments and non-profit community organizations
- Directing the Institutional Network (I-Net) and the related $1.5 million annually to ensure reliable and affordable fiber connectivity and network resources are available to local public institutions such as schools, libraries and public safety sites
- Enforcing cable company compliance with franchise agreements
- Conducting franchise negotiations, renewals and transfers of ownership
- Overseeing and monitoring two community media organizations
- Promoting community and institutional uses of cable-based technologies
- Participating in advocacy efforts for legislative activities and FCC proceedings
CABLE FRANCHISE OVERSIGHT AND ENFORCEMENT
Cable companies use public property (the “public right-of-way”- city/county streets, sidewalks, easements, etc.) to build and operate their for-profit cable communications businesses. In exchange for the use of the public right-of-way, a company must receive a Cable Franchise Agreement from the local government entity. The Cable Franchise Agreements allow the cable operator all the necessary rights and privileges to use the public right-of-way to construct a cable communications system and to deliver services to subscribers. In exchange for this access to the public right-of-way, the MHCRC negotiates provisions of the Cable Franchise Agreement in order to ensure that MHCRC Jurisdictions will have modern systems capable of serving future public needs and interests, such as:
- Franchise Fee Payment Requirements
- Customer Service Standards
- Insurance and Bonding Requirements
- Technical Standards
- Emergency Override Requirements
- Line Extension Policies
- Universal Service Issues
- Community Access Channels and Capital Funding Requirements
- Community Institutional Network (I-Net) Requirements
While the MHCRC acts in an advisory capacity to the Jurisdiction in connection with any decision to grant a Cable Franchise Agreement for cable services, the MHCRC has full authority to take any action necessary to enforce or administer the franchise agreements.
The MHCRC’s approach to franchise issues has been based principally on the following objectives:
- Provide for responsible and efficient management of the public rights of way;
- Provide for the highest level of cable services within the jurisdictions of the MHCRC;
- Promote optimal competition among providers of cable services;
- Extend fair treatment to all providers of service;
- Ensure an appropriate level of compensation and public benefit from the use of the rights of way; and
- Utilize public input, the companies’ proposals and staff expertise to develop recommendations for member Jurisdiction consideration.
Cable Television Service
Cable services franchise agreements are not exclusive agreements meaning more than one Cable Company could provide services to residents of Multnomah County. The MHCRC currently regulates two cable services franchise agreements with Comcast for services offered throughout Multnomah County; one cable services franchise agreement with Reliance Connects for services offered to residents of Corbett; and, four cable services franchise agreements with Frontier for services offered to Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale and Wood Village residents only. The MHCRC has an agreement with CenturyLink, which took over the Qwest incumbent telephone system in Portland; however CenturyLink has elected to not roll out services at this time.
All cable franchise agreements are prepared and adopted in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission and 1996 Telecommunications Acts.
The MHCRC plays a key role in negotiating the franchise agreements and the subsequent public benefits and in making sure the cable companies live up to their promises. The Commission also supports diverse and local content over all communications media and opposes media concentration.
MHCRC’s FY2020-2021 Goals & Objectives