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The city of Corvallis and telecommunications giant Comcast are at odds over what infrastructure the company is allowed to install in the city’s right of way.

Comcast has been installing wi-fi equipment in city right of way, and Corvallis officials say the work violates the company’s cable franchise agreement with the city. Comcast, meanwhile, through a cable lobbying group, has told the Federal Communications Commission that it has the right to override municipal permitting processes. The FCC has not yet acted in the case.

The Internet and Television Association (NCTA) noted in a June 11 letter to the FCC that “cable operators are facing unwarranted impediments in their efforts to deploy state-of-the-art broadband networks as a result of abusive permitting requirements.”

Not so, said Corvallis City Manager Mark Shepard in a July 26 letter to the FCC that was first reported by the website Ars Technica, which covers technology, science, politics and society (see info box for the link to the Ars Technica story; Shepard’s letter is with the online version of this story).

“Comcast has failed to follow generally applicable city codes and the terms and conditions of its negotiated franchise agreement,” Shepard wrote.

Shepard said that the work “provided non-cable services to non-cable customers even though Comcast’s franchise does not authorize use of the ROW to provide non-cable services to the general public.”

Shepard said that the city has encouraged Comcast to apply for a telecom franchise to remedy the situation. The City Council will discuss a possible ordinance that would address the issue at its Aug. 23 work session.

“In general, local jurisdictions are having to work at keeping our local ordinances up to speed with the rapidly changing way telecommunications and digital services are being delivered,” Shepard said. “I am hopeful the issue will be resolved in a manner that is satisfactory to the city.”

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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