Although the Frankfort, KY City Commission voted 5-0 in favor of a revised telecommunications ordinance, the wind-up leading to that vote was not so simple. As the State Journal reports, the Commission was approached by OpenFiber Kentucky about a plan for that franchise to complete a broadband rollout for the city.
“Utility franchises are mandated by the Constitution and we’re at a point where we now have entry of this company. Also at the federal level,” said City Solicitor Laura Ross, “We cannot put up any barriers to entry by these telecommunications companies, so if we put off the ordinance any longer it could be problematic for the city.”
By agreeing to allow OpenFiber to use the city’s Right-of-Ways, Frankfort opened up the possibility of charging the franchise for that access. Ross noted that Frankfort currently collects approximately $32,000 per year from the state telecommunications tax distribution. The city had to decide whether to keep this arrangement, or forfeit it in favor of charging a local franchise fee.
After reviewing its options, the Frankfort City Commission determined that it could keep the state distribution and still charge an $8,000 non-refundable application fee and a $2,000 non-refundable administrative/advertising fee. One Commissioner asked if the city could charge a higher application fee, to which Ross responded, “This is actually a very good application fee for us to be able to charge. We have to be careful due to some other legal constraints about the amount that we charge, but we feel like this is an excellent result.”
“[I] find it very frustrating that the state is giving money to Accelecom or Kentucky Wired and they get money back when they pick up business from municipalities in different areas of the state and this is at the cost of our municipal utility,” countered Commissioner Anna Marie Rosen. “I think we’re stuck at this point. It’s not a great situation.”
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