Cable Franchise Renewal

Cable Franchise Renewal: Wave Broadband

Wave Broadband

Seattle's cable franchise with Wave is about to be renewed.

The proposed ordinance to renew the franchise is Council Bill No. 119030. The ordinance includes the proposed new franchise with Wave. The proposed ordinance can be be viewed by clicking here and entering CB 119030 in the record no. field.

A public hearing on the proposed franchise agreement was held on Wednesday August 2 in the City Council Chanber.

Written comments on the proposed ordinance and franchise will be accepted until 5:00 pm on September 5:

  • Email comments to all Councilmembers at, OR
  • Send written comments to Councilmember Bruce Harrell, PO Box 34025, Seattle WA 98124-4025

Report on the Evolution of Cable Industry Technology

As part of the franchise renewal process, the City commissioned an engineering report on the State of the Art and Evolution of Cable Television and Broadband Technology.

Why is this report important? A new cable franchise will have a 10-year term. This report provides the City and its residents with a glimpse into how the cable industry is changing in the world of all-digital and IP based signal delivery. This is important to understand when thinking of how community cable-related needs and interests might be supported by Wave into the future.

A presentation on the report findings was made to the CTTAB (Citizens’ Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board) on October 8, 2013. A video of the presentation is available on the Seattle Channel website:

What is a Cable Franchise?

In order to provide their services, cable companies have to use the public rights-of-way (ROW) to install their cable equipment and facilities throughout the city. A cable franchise is the formal agreement between the City and a cable provider outlining the terms and conditions under which it can use the public ROW. The franchise imposes various obligations on the cable company including compensating the City for use of the ROW, protecting the rights and interests of Seattle residents and cable subscribers, and providing certain public benefits.

Cable Franchise Agreements with City of Seattle:

Wave is a small, regional cable operator, serving approximately 8,500 cable TV subscribers in central parts of Seattle, along with some areas around Eastlake and western Queen Anne. Wave currently operates under a franchise agreement effective since November 2007. Wave's franchise allows the company to use the City's ROW in return for the payment of rental fees (called 'franchise fees') and other benefits for Seattle and its residents.

Length of Cable Franchise Agreements

Franchise agreements in Seattle are adopted for terms of 10 years. Wave's current franchise expires November 11, 2017.

How Renewal Works:

The franchise renewal process is governed by federal law (Section 626 of Cable Act, 47 CFR 546). It occurs over the three (3) year period before a franchise expires. This period is designed to provide the City with sufficient time to:

  • Evaluate the extent to which the cable operator has complied with its legal and franchise obligations during the term of the franchise;
  • Determine the future cable-related needs and interests its residents (called "ascertainment"); and
  • Negotiate with the cable provider on the conditions of any renewed franchise agreement, including cable-related benefits to help meet the needs identified during the ascertainment process.

What City Negotiators CAN do:

  • Conduct an ascertainment process to determine community needs and interests. Under the existing franchise, for example, the City received potential use of up to 16 cable channels for the carriage of local, non commericla programming. It also secured free cable service to city buildings and schools.
  • Identify circumstances where the cable operator has failed to live up to its obligations.
  • Deny the renewal, but only after a lengthy, formal process to determine if the cable operator has failed to meet certain criteria.
  • Hold Wave accountable for certain customer-service aspects of cable and internet service under a "bill of rights" adopted by city ordinance. See Cable Customer Bill of Rights.

What City Negotiators CANNOT do:

  • Control prices and what cable operators charge customers for cable modems or cable TV.
  • Control what commercial channels cable operators makes available, although the City can require certain categories of programming.
  • Make demands about cable-modem (Internet) service because, technically, it's not part of the franchise.

Contact Us:

You can contact us electronically using our on-line Renewal Comments Form, or by calling the Cable Line at (206) 684-8498.

Related Documents: