The Business Council of New York State, Inc., the leading state business and industry trade association opposes this legislation that would amend the Public Service Law in regards to the transfer of cable systems.
This bill would apply a many decades old merger approval structure designed for traditional, energy utilities to the highly competitive cable video market. The bill moves the public interest burden from the Public Service Commission to the companies operating in the system. Under Section 1, subdivision 3 of section 222 of the Public Service Law, the bill amends the application procedure to include “renewal or amendment of franchise”. Further, in this amended section 3 (a) it states under current law it “shall not preclude approval of any application if the commission finds that such approval would serve the public interest.” However, in new section 3 (b), the law is amended to state “the commission shall not approve the applications for a transfer of franchise, any transfer of control of a franchise or certificate of a confirmation...unless the applicant…conform to the standards established in the regulations promulgated…and that the transfer is otherwise in the public interest.”
This is a confusing amendment in that it states the commission must approve of the application for renewal or transfer if it conforms to the law and it serves the public interest. Then the bill adds a new section of law stating largely the same but, imposing upon the petitioner the burden of finding that its petition is, likewise, in the public interest. This type of language may best be suited for industries that serve as utilities, but seems implausible for the competitive industry. Conformity with the law is an accepted and well recognized precursor to the granting of a franchise, but stating that a cable franchise must proves its “transfer is otherwise in the public interest” is not an avenue pertinent to this section of law. It creates a new burden on the industry when they may seek to transfer franchises to another company. This heavier burden will ultimately delay any approvals and deny residents in often harder to serve areas modern cable services they deserve.
For the above reason, The Business Council opposes this legislation.