Agreement sets details for operation of new cable, internet systems | News

City Council members put a franchise agreement into place Tuesday, clearing the way for a new cable and internet company to operate in Lawton.

The 15-year, non-exclusive franchise agreement is between the City of Lawton and Clarity Telecom LLC (Bluepeak), which approached the City Council in December with a plan to provide cable and internet service to Lawton-Fort Sill, as it planned to do with at least five other Oklahoma communities.

Because the agreement is non-exclusive, the council may approve the action without a vote of residents, City Attorney John Ratliff said at the time. Attorneys have said federal law provides specific grounds governing cable franchise operations, including grounds for a municipality to deny a franchise. Because voters may reject a franchise agreement for any reason, cable franchise agreements don’t need voter approval as other franchise agreements do.

Desi Stoops, Bluepeak vice president of market development, said in December his firm wanted to bring both cable television and broadband internet to the community.

“We’re ecstatic to build out in the City of Lawton,” he said.

The new franchise agreement is specific to cable operations. Its required permit fee will not apply to internet access or internet-based telephone services provided by Bluepeak, except for the payment of the statutory 911 phone fee (which still must be paid).

The agreement specifies Clarity Telecom LLC will pay the City of Lawton a 5 percent permit fee from gross revenues collected from subscribers and 5 percent of gross revenues from advertising, with payment made to the city quarterly. Gross revenues are limited to recurring charges for cable, event-based charges (such as pay-per-view), and service and administrative charges.

It authorizes Clarity to build and operate a cable system and offer cable service and other service “in, along, among, upon, across, above, over, under, or in any manner connected with Public Ways….” That means the company can “erect, install, construct, repair, replace, reconstruct, maintain or retain” poles, wires, cables, conductors, ducts, conduits, vaults, manholes, pedestals, amplifiers, appliances, attachments and other related property or equipment necessary to operate the cable system. Use of public spaces (such as easements) for its system is the reason the firm needs a franchise agreement with the city.

The agreement specifies the firm must build the system over a “reasonable period of time,” with at least 50 percent of build out completed in two years and 90 percent within three years, to areas with a density of at least 40 residents per linear strand mile of cable. The firm must restore any public right of way to comparable condition if it damages it, and has the right to trim trees and shrubbery overhanging any of its cable system.

In areas of town where other utility lines are underground, the firm must put its system underground. In areas with both underground and aerial systems, Clarity may chose its preferred option.

The city may not regulate rates for provision of cable services or other charges.

The agreement is similar to one the City of Lawton has with Fidelity, Lawton’s only cable system. Fidelity purchased the former Lawton Cablevision in 2008 and continued to operate under an existing franchise agreement before the council granted it a non-exclusive, 15-year franchise in 2014.


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