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Guide

Regulation of Cable TV Rates

Background

Your local franchising authority (LFA) legally may (but is not required to) regulate the rate your cable TV provider can charge for basic cable service. The rates you pay for other cable programming and services, such as expanded cable channel packages, premium movie channels and pay-per-view sports events, are set by your cable TV provider.

How Cable TV Rates Are Regulated

Your LFA -- the city, county or other governmental organization authorized by your state to regulate cable television service -- may regulate the rates your cable company charges for the basic service tier. The basic service tier must include most local broadcast stations, as well as the public, educational and governmental channels required by the franchise agreement between the LFA and your cable company. If the FCC finds that a local cable company is subject to “effective competition” (as defined by Federal law), the LFA may not regulate the rates it charges for the basic service tier. The rates charged by certain small cable companies are not subject to regulation - they are determined by the companies.

Your LFA also enforces FCC regulations that determine whether a cable operator’s basic service tier rates are reasonable, as well as reviews rate justification forms filed by cable operators. Contact your cable operator and/or LFA if you have any questions about basic service tier rates.

Non-Regulated Cable TV Rates

The rates for any tier of service beyond the basic services tier, including pay-per-channel programming (i.e., a premium movie channel) and pay-per-program services (i.e., a pay-per-view sports event), are not regulated. Your cable company determines the rates charged for these services. However, your cable company may not require you to purchase any additional service tier other than the basic service tier in order to have access to pay-per-view events or premium channels offered on an “a la carte” or individual basis. There is no law that requires (or prohibits) cable companies to offer channels or programs on an “a la carte” basis.

Your LFA also is authorized to enforce FCC rules and guidelines in the following areas:

  • Customer service, i.e. complaints about bills, or a cable operator’s response to inquiries about signal quality or service requests; and
  • Franchise fees, which the cable company pays the LFA for the right to access public rights of way to offer cable service.

What to Expect from Your LFA and Cable Provider

LFAs may review any increases in basic service tier rates to verify that they accurately reflect increases in the cable company’s programming or other costs that cable operators are allowed to pass through to customers. Questions concerning this review process should be directed to the LFA.

You are entitled to write or call your cable company whenever you have complaints about cable services provided or program cost increases. You should expect a prompt response.

Complaints or Questions

You may contact your cable provider or your LFA with complaints or questions about customer service, basic service tier rates or franchise fees. The name of your LFA is printed on your cable bill and in your local telephone book.

Contact your cable company with any complaints about rates for tiers of service other than the basic service tier and for any pay-per-channel programming and pay-per-program services, because these rates are not subject to regulation.

If you are not satisfied with your cable rates, you can consider alternative multichannel video programming services that may be available in your area, such as competitive cable services or satellite television services.

You also can contact your local and state consumer protection organizations for assistance in understanding your rights and responsibilities as a cable subscriber.

For More Information

For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer website, or contact the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

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Regulation of Cable TV Rates Guide (pdf)

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