What records are cable companies required to maintain?

FCC rules require cable operators serving 1,000 or more subscribers to maintain certain records:

  • political files
  • sponsorship identifications
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) reports
  • commercial records for children’s programming; ownership records
  • the location of the system’s principal head end
  • and a list of television broadcast stations carried by the system in fulfillment of the must-carry requirements

Are these records publicly accessible?

Cable companies are required to keep these files available for public inspection at an accessible location.  Other requirements include:

  • Public inspection files must be made available at any time during regular business hours.
  • Cable operators must honor requests made in person to reproduce documents contained in public inspection files. Cable operators may charge a reasonable fee for copies.
  • Requests for copies of documents must be fulfilled within a reasonable time, not to exceed seven days.

Cable operators may choose, but are not required, to honor requests for copies made by mail. Requests made in person must be honored.

What are privacy requirements for cable subscriber records?

Cable operators are required to notify subscribers at the time service is initiated and at least once each year about any personally identifiable information (PII) to be collected, and how it will be used, including:

  • the scope, frequency and purpose of PII collected
  • the period during which PII will be maintained
  • the times and places at which the subscriber may access their PII
  • any limitations placed on the cable operator regarding collection and disclosure of PII, as well as subscribers’ rights to enforce the limitations

Can I find out what information my cable operator has collected about me?

Cable operators must provide subscribers access to PII at reasonable times and at a convenient place, as well as reasonable opportunities to correct any errors.

What action can I take against my cable operator for violating subscriber privacy rules?

You may file a suit in U.S. district court, which may award actual damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and other reasonable litigation costs.

Knowingly broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe may violate the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Specifics of the FCC’s Rules

The FCC’s rules prohibit holders of broadcast licenses from broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if:

  • the licensee knows the information is false; and
  • the licensee knows beforehand that broadcasting the information will cause substantial “public harm.” The public harm: (1) must begin immediately and cause direct and actual damage to property or the health or safety of the general public; or (2) divert law enforcement or public health and safety authorities from their duties.

Disclaimers

If a broadcast licensee uses a disclaimer that clearly characterizes the program as fiction, and the disclaimer is presented in a way that is reasonable under the circumstances, the program will be presumed not to pose foreseeable public harm.

Filing a complaint

You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:

  • File a complaint online at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

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

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Cable Companies' Record Retention & Cable Subscriber Privacy Guide (pdf)

Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - 9:30am