|Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
|News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
SENIORS SHOULD KNOW THEIR RIGHTS AS CABLE CONSUMERS
As part of the on-going campaign, the Chairman of the Federal Communications
Commission, William E. Kennard, is alerting senior citizens to their rights as cable consumers in
the newly deregulated cable marketplace. Chairman Kennard pointed to the FCC's Cable
Consumer Bill of Rights campaign designed to let all consumers know that, even though the
FCC's direct role in cable rate regulation is ending, they still have a number of rights regarding
their cable service. |
"I am particularly concerned about retired senior citizens because most are on a fixed income and cable television is a vital lifeline to the world. While the FCC will continue our work to make cable rates reasonable by removing barriers to competition in the video marketplace, I encourage cable operators to offer senior citizen discounts," Kennard said.
Section 623 of the Communications Act specifically encourages senior citizen discounts for cable service, but does not require such discounts. Some communities have negotiated senior citizen cable discounts, but such agreements are rare. The Cable Consumer Bill of Rights Campaign is designed to educate consumers about their options after March 31, 1999, when Congress mandated the end of direct FCC regulation of cable rates. Congress adopted a cable rate regulation sunset provision in the 1996 Telecommunications Act. From this point forward, the FCC will not have the statutory authority to accept and review complaints about cable service rates offered after March 31, 1999. The FCC will continue to review appeals of local rate orders involving basic cable service.
Since 1993, the FCC has been receiving and disposing of complaints from cable television subscribers and local franchise authorities regarding rates on the cable programming service tier. During this period of time, the FCC has resolved almost 18,000 complaints involving 5,700 cable communities. The FCC has ordered about $100 million in consumer refunds to 40 million cable subscribers. The FCC has saved consumers an estimated three to five billion dollars in their cable rates over the past six years.
The Cable Consumer Bill of Rights lists eight options that consumers will continue to have in regard to their cable service. A copy is attached.
Effective April 1, 1999, the FCC's statutory authority to directly regulate rates for cable television service expired as a result of a "sunset provision" enacted by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
In ending the FCC's rate regulation authority, Congress indicated that it expected that competition in the video programming marketplace would serve to keep cable service prices reasonable. At this point that has not yet occurred. The FCC will continue to open up the video marketplace by working to remove barriers to competition.
In the meantime, all cable users in the country should be aware of options available to them, so I am launching a consumer education program to make consumers aware of what they can do in a deregulated marketplace:
From your cable company:
(1) Consumers should expect a fair deal from their local cable company, with reasonable rates that fairly reflect the costs of doing business.From your local government:
(2) Consumers should expect an explanation from their cable companies whenever rates for the programming service tier are raised, particularly when cable companies attribute price rises to increases in the cost of obtaining programming.
(3) Consumers are entitled to write or call their cable companies whenever they have complaints about the cable services being provided on the various channels, or about program cost increases, and they should expect a speedy response.
(4) Consumers are entitled to file complaints with their local government (i.e. city, town or county) regarding basic tier cable rate increases and service quality.From the FCC:
(5) Consumers are entitled to provide their own inside wiring for cable hookups.Additionally:
(6) Consumers will soon be entitled to purchase and use cable set-top boxes at competitive market prices.
(7) Consumers have a right to contact local, state and national consumer advocacy groups with grievances that are not being adequately resolved by their cable providers.
(8) Consumers unhappy with their local cable company should explore competitive alternatives for video programming service available from DBS (direct broadcast satellite) and other providers.