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(a) The County may grant a franchise for a period not to exceed 15 years to serve all or any specified geographic areas of the County.
(b) The County may grant a limited franchise for a period not to exceed 10 years to serve a geographic area that meets both of the following criteria:
(1) the geographic area involves no overbuild; and
(2) the geographic area is one where the cable will pass at the time the franchise is granted an average of fewer than 30 dwelling units per cable mile.
(c) The County may condition the grant of a franchise on the completion of construction within a specified time or the performance of other specific obligations and specify that the failure of the franchisee to comply with the condition will void the franchise without further action by the County.
(d) The Executive must conduct a public hearing on an application for a new franchise. The Executive must conduct the hearing on an application for a new franchise for an overbuild within 90 days after the Executive accepts the application for filing. The Executive must give public notice of the hearing at least 15 calendar days before the hearing. At the public hearing, the Executive may accept written and oral testimony and any other material relevant to the application. The Executive may consider multiple applications in a single proceeding.
(e) In evaluating an application for a new franchise, the County must consider:
(1) the applicant's character;
(2) the applicant's technical, financial, and legal qualifications to construct and operate the proposed system;
(3) the nature of the proposed facilities and equipment;
(4) the applicant's record of cable performance in other communities, if any; and
(5) whether the proposal will serve the public interest.
(f) Where an applicant proposes to overbuild an existing cable system, the County must consider the factors in subsection (e) and:
(1) the beneficial effects of competition, including any reduced rates to consumers, higher technical standards, or more varied programming offerings; and
(2) the effect of the overbuild on the public.
(g) The Executive must propose to grant or deny the franchise application and must notify the applicant of the proposed action. Before proposing action, the Executive must consider the application, the written and oral testimony and other material presented at the hearing, and any other information relevant to the application. For an application for a new overbuild franchise, the Executive must make the proposal within 120 days after accepting the application for filing.
(h) If the Executive proposes to grant a franchise application, the Executive and the applicant must agree on the terms of a franchise agreement within 60 days after the applicant receives the notice of the proposed grant. The Executive and the applicant may extend this period for up to 60 more days. If the two parties do not reach agreement by the end of the original or any extended period, the notice of proposed grant is void.
(i) As required by State law, the County must advertise the terms of a proposed franchise agreement, including the proposed compensation to the County, for three successive weeks in one or more newspapers of general circulation in the County to allow the public to comment on the proposed franchise agreement.
(j) If the Executive and the applicant agree on a proposed franchise agreement, the Executive must submit the proposed agreement to the Council for approval. For an application for a new overbuild franchise, the Executive must submit the proposed franchise agreement to the Council within 10 days after the end of the advertising period.
(k) (1) When the Executive submits a proposed franchise agreement to the Council for approval, the Council may, within the applicable time provided in Section 8A- 28(d):
(A) grant the franchise;
(B) grant the franchise with conditions that the Council finds are necessary to assure that the franchise complies with County law;
(C) remand the franchise agreement to the Executive with specific recommendations to renegotiate any provision of the proposed franchise agreement and submit a revised agreement to the Council for approval; or
(D) deny the application for a franchise.
(2) If the Executive proposes to deny the franchise application or cannot reach agreement with the applicant on a proposed franchise agreement within the time specified in subsection (h), the Executive immediately must recommend to the Council that the Council deny the application and explain the reasons for the recommendation. The Council may, within the applicable time provided in Section 8A-28(d):
(A) deny the application;
(B) remand the franchise application to the Executive with recommendations or instructions for further action; or
(C) grant the franchise with any conditions that the Council determines are necessary to assure that the franchise complies with County law.
(l) Every franchise grant is subject to a franchise acceptance fee in an amount not to exceed the County's costs to consider the application, less the amount of the filing fee. The County’s costs include time spent by County employees and officials to review, negotiate, and approve the franchise agreement, and fees paid to attorneys, experts, and other consultants. Within 30 days after the Council grants a franchise under this Chapter, the County must notify the approved applicant of the amount of the franchise acceptance fee and how the County calculated the amount. If the approved applicant does not pay the franchise acceptance fee within 30 days after the County notifies the applicant, the grant is void. The franchisee must not act under the franchise until the franchisee complies with the bond, insurance, and other prerequisites of the franchise agreement. (FY 1991 L.M.C., ch. 3, § 1; 1993 L.M.C., ch. 15, § 1; 1998 L.M.C., ch. 18, § 2; 2001 L.M.C., ch. 28, §§ 3, 15 and 16; 2006 L.M.C., ch. 34, § 1.)
Editor’s noteThe effective date of the amendment made to this section by 2001 L.M.C., ch. 28, § 3, is the same effective date as 1998 L.M.C., ch. 18, § 2.