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(a) If a franchisee initiates a formal franchise renewal process under Section 626(a)--(g) of the Cable Act, the franchisee must notify the County, and each participating municipality, at least 30 months and no more than 36 months before the franchise expiration date. When the County receives a notice from the franchisee, or at any time at the County's own initiative, the County must take the following actions:
(1) The County must review and evaluate the future cable-related community needs and interests and the franchisee's past performance. The review and evaluation must include opportunity for public comment.
(2) On completion of the review and evaluation, the County must notify the franchisee that it may file a renewal application. The notice must specify the information to be included in the renewal application and the deadline for filing the application. The filing deadline must not be earlier than 30 days after the date of the notice. If the franchisee does not submit a renewal application by the specified date, the franchise may not be renewed under this subsection.
(3) The County must hold one or more public hearings on the renewal application when the application is received or provide some other procedure for public comment on the application.
(4) After the public hearing or comment period, the County Executive must recommend to the Council that it either:
(A) renew the franchise, subject to the negotiation of a franchise agreement satisfactory to the County and the franchisee; or
(B) issue a preliminary decision that the franchise should not be renewed.
(5) The Council's action under paragraph (a)(4) must be taken within 4 months of the date of the renewal application notice to the franchisee under paragraph (a)(2).
(b) In considering a renewal application, the County must consider whether:
(1) the cable operator has substantially complied with the material terms of the existing franchise and with applicable law;
(2) the quality of the cable operator's service, including signal quality, response to consumer complaints, and billing practices has been reasonable in light of community needs (but without regard to the mix, quality, or level of cable services or other services provided over the system);
(3) the cable operator has the financial, legal, and technical ability to provide the services, facilities, and equipment in its proposal; and
(4) the cable operator's proposal is reasonable to meet the future cable-related community needs and interests, taking into account the cost of meeting the needs and interests.
(c) If a preliminary decision is made that a franchise should not be renewed, at the request of the franchisee or on its own initiative, the County must commence an administrative proceeding under Section 626(c) of the Cable Act. A hearing must be held under Section 2A-8 of this Code. The burden of proof is governed by the Cable Act. The hearing officer must issue a recommended decision consistent with the Cable Act. Parties to the hearing and the public must have 30 days after the recommended decision is issued to comment. The County Executive must recommend that the Council grant of deny an application within 30 calendar days after the deadline for receipt of comments.
(d) The Council must hold a public hearing on a renewal application. After the public hearing, the Council must consider all of the evidence, either grant or deny the renewal application by resolution, and give the reasons for its determination in the resolution.
(e) The Council must hold a public hearing on any negotiated franchise agreement prior to final Council action on the franchise. This may be done in conjunction with the public hearing held under subsection (d).
(f) Notwithstanding subsections (a) through (c) in this section, a franchisee may submit a proposal for renewal of a franchise under 626(h) of the Cable Act. The County must hold one or more public hearing or provide some other procedure for public comment on the proposal. After the public hearing or comment period, the County Executive must recommend that the Council grant or deny the franchise renewal and the terms and conditions of any recommended renewal.
(g) The renewal of a franchise is not effective until the franchisee has paid the renewal fee. The County must notify the franchisee of the amount of the renewal fee and how the fee is calculated when the County approves the renewed franchise agreement. The renewal fee must not exceed the County's costs of the renewal process, less the renewal filing fee.
(h) If the County denies the renewal of a franchise, and the franchisee does not have other authority to maintain and operate its facilities in the County’s public rights-of-way, the County may, on the recommendation of the County Executive and with the approval of the Council, acquire ownership of the cable system or transfer ownership of the system to another person, subject to applicable law. Any acquisition or transfer under this subsection must be at fair market value, determined on the basis of the cable system valued as a going concern but with no value allocated to the franchise itself, subject to applicable law.
(i) If the County does not renew a franchise and the franchisee does not have other authority to maintain and operate its facilities in the County’s public rights-of-way, and the County does not buy the cable system, the County may require the former franchisee to remove its facilities and equipment, subject to applicable law. If the former franchisee fails to do so within a reasonable period of time, the County may remove the facilities and equipment at the former franchisee's or the surety's expense or at the expense of both, subject to applicable law. (FY 1991 L.M.C., ch. 3, § 1; 2006 L.M.C., ch. 34, § 1.)