The Federal Communications Commission and local franchising authorities are responsible for enforcing a variety of cable television regulations. A franchising authority is the local municipal, county or other government organization that regulates certain aspects of the cable television industry at the state or local level. The name of the franchising authority may be on the front or back of your cable bill. If this information is not on your bill, contact your cable company or your local town or city hall.
The Commission expects cable operators to follow all of its rules and regulations. However, the FCC has designed enforcement mechanisms to protect consumers if these rules are not followed.
You should always contact your cable company first when you have a complaint. In many cases, the customer service representatives at your cable company will be able to assist you and solve your problem. The telephone number for your cable company should be on your cable bill. Your cable company has jurisdiction over the following issues:
- Programming carried on the system. With the exception of rules that require cable systems to carry certain local broadcast stations, cable systems decide which programming services to carry. Therefore, you should contact your cable system if it has dropped a particular channel.
- Carriage of FM and AM radio stations.
- Charges for pay-per-view or pay-per-channel programming. The rates charged for this type of programming are not regulated.
If you are not satisfied with your cable company's response, contact your local franchising authority.
Questions or complaints handled by your franchising authority include:
- Rates for basic service and equipment, installation and service charges related to basic service. This refers to the lowest level of cable service and generally includes local broadcast channels and public, educational and governmental access channels.
- Rates for cable programming services tiers, also known as "enhanced basic." Cable programming services tiers ("CPSTs") include those programming services except the basic service tier, and does not include any premium channels (such as HBO or Showtime) or any pay-per-view services. The CPST rate is determined by the cable operator and is not subject to government review.
- Customer service problems, including billing disputes, office hours, telephone availability of personnel, installations, outages and service calls. Local franchise authorities may adopt the Commission's Customer Service rules, at any time. The local franchise authority must provide the cable operator 90-days notice prior to enforcing the federal standards and may not adopt more stringent standards without the cable operator's consent.
- Franchise fees, which are determined and retained by local governments.
- Signal quality, including interference and reception difficulties.
- Use of public, educational, and governmental (PEG) channels. These channels may be required as part of the franchise agreement. Your local franchise authority can provide information on any terms or conditions of use.
You should contact the FCC if you have complaints or questions about the following issues:
- Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints. Contact the FCC, Media Bureau, Policy Division, EEO Branch, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
- Signal leakage from cable systems, which can result in interference to other users of the spectrum, including aeronautical services. Contact 1-888-225-5322 or send your inquiry to FCC, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
- Cable home wiring questions. If you believe that your cable company has violated the rules governing your ability to access and to use cable home wiring, please send a letter outlining the facts to the FCC, Media Bureau, Policy Division, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
- Commercial limits for childrens' programming. Write to the FCC, Enforcement Bureau, Investigations & Hearings Division, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
- Indecency and obscenity. Generally, the rules concerning the content of programming on cable channels are not as strict as the rules concerning programming content on non-cable channels. If you object to programming on a cable system, you may contact the FCC to determine what rules may be applicable and what action may be appropriate. Call 1-888-225-5322 or send your inquiry to FCC, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
You can always contact the FCC for assistance in understanding cable regulations at the following telephone numbers and addresses:
- Written communications: Federal Communications Commission, General Cable Inquiries, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554;
- Telephone assistance: 1-888-225-5322 to have fact sheets describing various aspects of cable regulations sent to you or to ask questions; or
- You can access recent Commission decisions regarding cable regulations via the Commission's Internet site, www.fcc.gov .
You may also contact your local and state consumer protection organizations for assistance in understanding your rights and responsibilities as a cable subscriber.
Finally, cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers are required to maintain certain documents in a public inspection file. These documents include a political programming file; sponsorship identification; EEO reports; commercial records for children's programming; leased access requirements; proof-of-performance tests; and signal leakage and repair logs. These are available for public inspection and copying. In addition, systems must have a current copy of Part 76 of the Commission's rules, which cover cable television.
For more information pertaining to the Media Bureau, please call: (202) 418-7200.