Urges Caution In Changing Broadcaster Carriage Election Notice Process
PITTSBURGH, February 19, 2018 – Allowing cable operators to communicate with subscribers via email, subject to certain consumer safeguards, will benefit consumers and the environment, and will ease regulatory burdens, especially for small providers, according to a recent filing by the American Cable Association.
“ACA fully supports the FCC’s proposal to allow cable operators to deliver all required subscriber notices via email, subject to consumer safeguards,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
ACA set forth its views in comments filed on Feb. 15 as part of the FCC’s proposal to update direct-to-consumer notice regulations. Under the FCC’s proposal, cable operators could use email to deliver all required subscriber notices and to respond to consumer requests or billing dispute complaints by email.
Subscriber notices could be sent to only a “verified email” and cable operators would be required to provide a telephone number for customers to opt-out of email delivery if they choose. Email responses to subscriber billing complaints and inquiries would be allowed only when the consumer used email to make the request or complaint, or the consumer specifies email as the preferred delivery method.
In the comments, ACA said that allowing cable operators to rely on email to engage with subscribers – whether in the dissemination of routine notices or in dealing with billing disputes and similar interactions – would make the FCC’s rules more efficient, effective, and reflective of the times.
For more than two decades, the FCC has required cable operators to rely on U.S. Mail to send subscriber notices and respond to subscriber requests and complaints. In 2017, the FCC found that electronic communications provided a number of public interest benefits. Those benefits included environmental protection and “greatly eas[ing] burdens” on small cable operators in particular.
In contrast, ACA urged caution in making any changes to the way in which broadcast stations notify multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) of their carriage elections. Unlike the consumer-facing notices described above, carriage elections have significant legal and financial consequences for broadcasters and cable operators alike. Because carriage elections have different and more far-reaching consequences, different policy considerations should apply.
ACA recommended that, in crafting any new rules, the FCC should bear certain principles in mind: First, it must take care that any new procedures allow for no uncertainty as to whether the cable operator has received timely notice of the broadcasters’ designation. Second, new procedures must not impose any new regulatory burdens on MVPDs.
ACA argued that proposals to allow electronic delivery of carriage election notices or to allow broadcasters to post their elections online without also providing direct notice to MVPDs could violate these principles, causing more harm than good.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/