Franchises & Licenses

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Any company, organization or individual that wishes to permanently place any wires, cables, lines, conduits, utility poles, or any other item or device within the right-of-way of the city must first obtain the permission of the City Council. This permission is required whether the facilities are aerial, underground or on the surface. This requirement applies to city easements as well as street rights-of-way or other publicly owned property. Facilities constructed on private property are subject to meeting the requirements of the City zoning ordinance. 

Examples of items that require a franchise or license include power lines, telephone lines, gas lines, fiber optic cables, transformers, electric switches, ground water monitoring wells, private communication lines, radio transmitters, permanent signs, decorative pavements, non-standard street lights and other streetscape items not maintained by the City. Items that would be in the right-of-way for shorter periods of time, such as temporary signs, require only the city manager’s approval.


Franchises have been granted for a period of 20 years for electric service to Dominion Virginia Power (formerly Virginia Power, VEPCO) in 2013, and for a period of 15 years for telephone service to Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic, C & P Telephone) in 2013, and for natural gas to Washington Gas in 1984. A 15 year franchise was granted for cable television to CoxCom (formerly Media General Cable) in 1998 and to Verizon Virginia, Inc in 2005. Copies of these franchise documents are available upon request by contacting us by email.

According to Commonwealth of Virginia law, a franchise can be granted for any period up to 40 years. The terms and conditions of the franchise are negotiated between the City and the requesting party. After all required legal notices are provided and all required public hearings are held, the City Council votes to adopt an ordinance approving the franchise. If successful, the franchisee may then construct its facilities within the city’s rights-of-way, subject to the terms of the franchise and obtaining required right-of-way permits and other legal approvals.

A request for a franchise must be submitted in writing to the Office of:

City of Fairfax / City Manager
10455 Armstrong Street
Fairfax, VA 22030


Licenses can be granted for a period of up to 5 years. Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was adopted by Congress, the City Council has granted a number of non-exclusive licenses to telecommunications providers. The license agreement is similar to a franchise document; however, the process is shorter and simpler. After one public hearing, the City Council may vote to adopt an ordinance approving the license. As with franchises, the successful licensee may construct its facilities within the city’s rights-of-way, subject to obtaining any required right-of-way permits and other legal approvals.

A request for a license of up to five years must be submitted in writing to the Office of the City Manager, City of Fairfax, 10455 Armstrong Street, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. The request should include any requested changes to the sample license agreements and justification for such changes.

Small Cell Facility and Wireless Facility Application Requirements and Aesthetic Guidelines

The City has implemented Aesthetic Guidelines and a Wireless Facility Application Requirement document. In consideration of, and in accordance with, applicable laws and regulations, the City of Fairfax, Virginia has determined that in order to reasonably manage, and protect, the City’s rights of way, it is in the best interest of the City to promulgate these Small Cell Facility and Wireless Facility Application Requirements and Aesthetic Guidelines. These Guidelines delineate certain aesthetic requirements, and general description of process, pertaining to location and co-location of small cell facilities and wireless facilities, and wireless support structures proposed to be installed, within the City’s public rights of way.


Any questions? Call 703.385.7850 or email.

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