Cable Regulation

Cable Regulation in Dubuque
Dubuque has a long history of cable television.  The City's first cable television franchise dates back to October 1954.  Back then cable TV was often referred to as CATV, or Community Antenna Television, when one shared antenna pulled in distant broadcast television signals and distributed them via cable to houses in the community.  That is far different than cable TV today where local broadcast stations share space with dozens of other channels whose signals are not broadcast through the air.

In 1981, the Dubuque City Council approved a 20-year cable franchise agreement with Teleprompter Corporation.  This agreement was extended until 2005, when a new, 15-year cable franchise agreement was approved with MCC Iowa (Mediacom).  The 2005 agreement stemmed from a community needs assessment, public input, and several years of negotiations and was designed to meet local telecommunications needs.

One of the provisions of the 2005 franchise agreement called for Mediacom to build an institutional network, or I-Net.  This is a network of fiber-optic cable connecting more than 75 governmental, educational, and non-profit institutions.  The I-Net has benefitted local institutions by providing connectivity at the cost of the equipment needed to make the connections.  The City of Dubuque, Dubuque Community Schools, Holy Family Catholic Schools, and the University of Dubuque have made extensive use of the I-Net to improve connectivity and save money.  A list of I-Net sites is available below.

In 2007, the Iowa legislature passed a law that allowed cable and video providers to apply for franchises at the state level, eliminating the possibility of community input and providing a "one size fits all" franchise that is the same all over the state.  The 2007 law also allowed existing cable providers to convert their local cable franchises to a state franchise when a competitor applied for a state franchise for a particular area.  Two years later (2009), a small Cedar Rapids company applied for a state video franchise for nearly 300 Iowa communities, including Dubuque, and later that year Mediacom was granted permission to convert its municipal franchise in Dubuque to a state franchise.  That Cedar Rapids company never did offer service here, and Dubuque and other cities worked with the state legislature to amend the 2007 law to restore a municipal franchise if a competitor fails to offer service.  The law was amended, but not retroactively, so Dubuque's 2005 municipal franchise was never restored.  In 2013 another company applied for a state franchise and notified the City it would begin offering service in February 2014.  To date they have not offered service either.

All Dubuque's cable franchises have been non-exclusive (including the state franchise).  At any point another cable company can get its own franchise to begin offering service here.

The texts for Dubuque's various cable franchises and the Iowa state franchise law are available below.