Budgeting and Forecasting

State and Local Government Authority Over Communications

Fueled by new developments in cable, telephone, video and satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the
communications industry is undergoing rapid technological, legal and economic change and growth. Proposals
continue to be advanced to promote competition, encourage investment in the national information infrastructure
and foster widespread service.

State and local governments, which strongly support access to reasonably priced technological advances, must
guard against the unintended preemption of their Constitutional authority, including the power to regulate, tax,
and collect franchise and other fees from communications providers that operate in their jurisdictions. State and
local governments must retain these powers, regardless of the method of distribution of services, in a way that
encourages the growth and diversity of the industry, and fosters state and local economic development, while at
the same time assures state and local citizen and community control.

GFOA Position
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) supports federal communications reform initiatives that

  • Preserving the right of state and local governments to manage their own public rights-of-way and to collect fees or fair market compensation for the use of public rights-of-way from communications providers without intervention from or preemption by federal authorities, including the right to collect differing fees from various communications providers. GFOA discourages the use of statewide or national franchising;
  • Allowing local governments to negotiate franchise agreements directly with communications providers using the public rights-of-way and to regulate and administer the franchise process, including ensuring local government access to communications services and facilities as part of negotiated franchise agreements;
  • Preserving state and local governments’ ability to enforce their land use and zoning authority;
  • Ensuring that any communication tax modernization initiatives protect the interests of local governments, including ability of local governments to:
  • Safeguarding against Federal Communications Commission and congressional actions that would reduce local governments’ ability to collect revenues from communications services and providers;
  • Ensuring the ability of local governments to provide their citizens with access to communications facilities and/or services, including community broadband systems;
  • Supporting policies that promote universal and affordable access to communications services in states and localities, such as federal and state universal service funds and the E-rate program; and
  • Ensuring that states and localities have sufficient spectrum and funding to obtain interference free, interoperable emergency communications.

GFOA urges the federal government to respect the legitimate interests of local governments and their residents as it debates and considers communications reform initiatives. GFOA encourages reform that retains essential local authority to determine tax and franchising policies that are consistent with local needs and maintain adequate revenue, and addresses citizen concerns about the community impact of and access to current and emerging communications technologies.

  • Publication date: May 2006