Most rates charged by cable television companies are not regulated by the FCC. Your state-approved local franchising authority (LFA) – usually a city, county, or other governmental organization – may regulate the rate your provider can charge for "basic" cable service, but only when your provider is not faced with effective competition from another cable service provider. However, there is no FCC requirement for such regulation and very few LFAs continue to regulate cable rates.

Basic tier services and rates

Cable systems are generally required to offer a "basic tier" of programming to all subscribers before they purchase any additional programming. The basic service tier must include most local broadcast stations, as well as public, educational and government channels required by the franchise agreement between the LFA and your cable company.

Under limited circumstances, LFAs may review increases in basic service tier rates to verify that they accurately reflect increases in the cable company's programming or other costs that regulated cable operators are allowed to pass through to customers.

Rates for premium services

Rates are never regulated by LFAs for any tier of service beyond basic tier services. Your cable company determines the rates charged for these services, including pay-per-channel programming, such as premium movie channels, and pay-per-program services, such as pay-per-view sports events.

Your cable company can 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. Cable companies are not required to – nor prohibited from – offering channels or programs on an "a la carte" basis.

Additional rules and guidelines for providers

Your LFA can enforce FCC rules and guidelines in the following areas:

  • Customer service, including complaints about bills, as well as a cable operator's response to inquiries about signal quality or service requests
  • Franchise fees paid to the LFA by a cable company for access to public rights of way to offer cable service

Who to contact with complaints and questions

Contact your cable provider or your LFA regarding 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 about rates for tiers of service other than the basic service tier and for any pay-per-channel programming and pay-per-program services. These rates are not subject to regulation.

In addition, your local and state consumer protection organizations may provide information about your rights as a cable subscriber.

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Regulation of Cable TV Rates (PDF)


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