The Business Council of New York State, Inc., the leading state business and industry trade association comprised of over 2,300 members, opposes this legislation that would amend the Public Service Law in regards to the transfer of cable systems.
This bill takes a decades-old merger approval structure designed for traditional energy utilities and applies it to the highly competitive cable video market. The bill moves the public interest burden from the Public Service Commission tothe companies operating in the system. The bill also amends the application procedure to apply it to the “renewal or amendment of franchise” as well.
Further, current law states that “it shall not preclude approval of any application if the commission finds that such approval would serve the public interest.” However, under this legislation, the law is amended to provide that “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 unworkable for this 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 standard 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 expansion of services to residents in hard to serve areas.
For the above reason, The Business Council opposes this bill and urges its defeat.