Doing Business: Telecommunications Franchises

DoITT is responsible for granting and administering all telecommunications franchises for New York City. A franchise is a contract entered into by the City with a private entity for the provision of a public service utilizing the City's streets and other rights of way. Telecommunications franchises allow for the installation and maintenance of wire, cable, optical fiber, conduit, antennae and other structures on, over and under the City's streets to facilitate the transmission of video, voice and data. Other City franchises that do not involve telecommunications, such as the consolidated street furniture franchise, are granted and administered by the City's Department of Transportation.

DoITT currently administers four categories of telecommunications franchises: cable television, public pay telephones, mobile telecommunications and local high capacity telecommunications.

Public Pay Telephones
The public pay telephone franchises allow for the installation and maintenance of coin operated payphones on and over the City's sidewalks. Curbside installations in commercial and manufacturing zones may also display advertising. As of January 2014, there are 11 public pay telephone franchisees with 9,903 public pay telephones. In Fiscal Year 2013, the City received a total of $17,416,722 in franchise commissions for payphone advertising and usage. The franchisees are required to keep the phones clean and operable. If you have identified an issue with a particular payphone, you may register a complaint using our online form.
Public Pay Telephone Frequently Asked Questions
Public Pay Telephone Franchisee Forms
The Future of the Public Pay Telephone
Payphone WiFi Hotspots

Micro-Trenching Pilot Program
NYC is the first large U.S. city to pilot micro-trenching to rapidly deploy fiber optic cable. This initiative is part of the City’s comprehensive effort to expand broadband connectivity and bolster the City’s growing tech sector. The pilot program demonstrates and tests the effectiveness of installing small conduits within the edges of City sidewalks to house fiber optic cabling, which can be used to deliver voice, Internet and cable television service.
Learn more about the micro-trenching pilot and apply for access to excess capacity
Read the press release

Mobile in Subway Stations Franchise
Transit Wireless has been contracted by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) to install and operate fiber optic cables and related equipment that will enable the wireless transmission of voice and data service in all 277 underground subway stations by 2016. Obtaining a license from the NYCTA is a prerequisite for this franchise. For an update on the status of the subway build-out, please visit the Transit Wireless website at
Download the solicitation (in PDF)
Read the press release

Cable Television

The City's cable television franchises authorize the use of the City's streets to provide cable television service to homes and businesses in the five boroughs. Three companies currently have cable television franchises: Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon. Verizon was granted a five borough franchise in 2008 and, although it is still building its system, is currently providing cable service in at least part of all five boroughs. Cablevision is providing service in The Bronx and part of Brooklyn. Time Warner Cable provides service in Staten Island, Manhattan, Queens and part of Brooklyn.
Map of service area (in PDF) 

The City also administers an open video system contract with RCN. RCN's open video system status, granted by the federal government, allowed them to enter into a contract with the City to provide the same type of services as a cable provider without following the City's franchise process.

The cable television franchise contracts and the open video system contract all require the companies to pay a 5% commission to the City on revenues derived from video services. In Fiscal Year 2013, that amounted to $131,549,795. The contracts also require significant levels of customer service. Complaints to the provider, which are not resolved, may be referred to DoITT using our online form.

Cable Television Frequently Asked Questions
Open Video System Frequently Asked Questions

Mobile Telecommunications Franchises
Mobile Telecommunications Franchises allow for the installation and maintenance of base stations and antennae on street light poles, signal poles and utility poles to facilitate wireless communications in the five boroughs. These installations serve as an alternative to rooftop installations. A franchise was also given to the MTA's licensee to facilitate wireless communications in underground subway stations. In Fiscal Year 2013, the Mobile Telecommunications franchisees remitted $2,250,879 in franchise fees to the City.

Mobile Telecommunications Franchises Frequently Asked Questions

Local High Capacity Telecommunications Franchises
Telecommunications services that are provided utilizing the City's streets that are not cable television, public pay telephones or mobile telecommunications services are authorized by the City as local high capacity telecommunications franchises. These services include data transmission services utilized by businesses. In Fiscal Year 2013, the City collected $8,064,839 in franchise fees from local high capacity telecommunications franchises.

The Franchise Process

The Mayor designates the agency with the primary expertise and responsibility in the policy area covered by a type of franchise to be responsible for the development and administration of that type of franchise.  The responsible agency then prepares a proposed authorizing resolution that is presented to the Mayor who may submit it to the City Council for approval.  Once submitted to the City Council it may be approved, approved with modifications or denied. 

An approved authorizing resolution then serves as the basis for a request for proposals or other form of solicitation issued by the responsible agency to select franchisees.  The selection of franchisees is then made in accordance with the authorizing resolution.  The selection and proposed franchise contract is then presented to the Franchise and Concession Review Committee for its review and approval.

If approved by the Franchise and Concession Review Committee the separate approval of the Mayor is then required.  The executed contract must then be registered by the City's Comptroller.

For more information please see Chapter 14 of the City Charter.