APWA briefs FCC officials on issues of managing public rights-of-way

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Relations
APWA Washington Office

The need for local officials to have the authority to manage the public rights-of-way (ROW) was the subject of a briefing by two APWA members before officials of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), held earlier this year in Washington, D.C. The briefing was conducted in conjunction with the meeting of the FCC's Local & State Government Advisory Committee (LSGAC) and the agency's bureau chiefs and their advisors.

In a two-hour briefing for the FCC officials, John Cunningham, assistant managing director, City of Philadelphia, and Leonard Krumm, senior advisor at CNA Consulting Engineers, outlined the responsibility public officials have in managing public ROW to serve the health, safety and transportation needs of the public. They discussed the costs of managing the local ROW and the damaging impacts to infrastructure when local officials are denied the authority to manage the ROW in the interest of the public.

Local officials are facing increasing challenges to their authority to manage the public ROW since the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which increased the number of communications providers working in the public ROW. In April, the FCC issued a ruling that classifies Internet access provided through a cable system as neither a cable service nor as a telecommunications service but as an "interstate information service." The effect of such a classification jeopardizes local government's ability to recover franchise fees and provide ROW management.

APWA has joined the Alliance of Local Organizations Against Preemption (ALOAP), a coalition formed to respond to the federal ruling and to other public ROW issues. Members of ALOAP include the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, and International Municipal Lawyers Association.

Support for local control of the ROW is an APWA public policy advocacy priority. APWA policy supports the authority of public agencies to manage the public ROW and to receive fair and reasonable compensation for its use.

The LSGAC, formed in 1997 and comprised of local, state and tribal government officials, advises the FCC on issues of concern to state, local and tribal governments. APWA will continue to work with the LSGAC and local government partners in advocating its position to policymakers at FCC and in Congress.