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News

6
May
2021

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers About Your Cable Service

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
PUBLIC UTILITIES REGULATORY AUTHORITY

Last Revised July 20, 2020

PURA Cable Sector Regulation Information

Who regulates cable rates?
Under state and federal law, PURA is unable to regulate cable rates.

Does PURA regulate satellite providers of television service?
PURA does not have jurisdiction over satellite providers of television service. Although the Authority does not have jurisdiction, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection may be able to assist you with unresolved complaints involving satellite providers of television service. You may write to Consumer Protection at the following address:
Department of Consumer Protection
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Customer Complaints Related to Cable Service

Who should I contact about a cable company related complaint?
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.

Questions or complaints handled by the Authority include:
 Customer service problems, including billing disputes, office hours, telephone availability of personnel, installations, outages and service calls.
 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 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.

Cable Service Rates Information
My monthly bill shows charges for various fees. What are these?
There are two types of fees that cable operators may be required to pay, although both of these fees are typically referred to as franchise fees. The first type of fee is a regulatory fee, and the second type of fee is a negotiated fee. Cable operators are allowed to be reimbursed for both types of fees by recovering the costs from subscribers.

Regulatory Fees: Connecticut does not impose a license fee, but does impose other costs, as listed below.

FCC Fee: The Federal Communications Commission requires payment from the cable operator on an annual basis to offset the cost of federal regulation. Depending on your cable operator, this fee may be called an “FCC Fee,” “FCC Mandated Fee,” or “Regulatory Fee.”

Negotiated Fees/Franchise Fees: Under federal law, non-capital costs relating to license requirements are considered franchise fees and may be passed onto subscribers. For example, cable operators are required to set aside channels for public, educational, and governmental (“PEG”) use. The monies spent to maintain the PEG access studio, equipment, and personnel are considered franchise fees and may be passed on to subscribers. Fees vary based on franchise area. These fees appear on monthly bills as “Franchise Fees,” “Franchise Costs” or “Access Fees.”

Gross Earnings Tax: The history of the gross earnings tax dates back to 1965. At that time, the existing gross earnings tax in Connecticut General Statutes (Conn. Gen. Stat.) §12-258 was revised by the Legislature to add cable television systems at a rate of six percent. In 1971, the rate was changed to eight percent. Public Act 81-255 increased the rate again to nine percent. Finally, Public Act 89-251 reduced the rate to the current five percent.

Cable television systems itemize the gross earnings tax, sometimes identified as the franchise fee, on the monthly cable bills. This is confusing to many subscribers. They believe they are being taxed incorrectly because the sales tax is computed on the total bill, including the gross earnings tax. However, we have been advised by the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) that this treatment is correct.

DRS states that the gross earnings tax is a tax on the company, like the federal income tax or state property tax. As such it is an expense of the company. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-407(8), the “Sales Price” of a company’s product or service, upon which sales tax is computed, includes “the cost of materials used, labor or service cost, interest charged, losses or other expenses.” Although cable television systems have chosen to treat this one expense differently by identifying it separately on your bill, the gross earnings tax is, by statutory definition, a part of the sales price and, therefore subject to sales tax.

If you have further questions, DRS’s Taxpayer Service Division may be reached by phone toll-free at 1-800-382-9463.

Is the cable operator allowed to charge sales tax?
Yes. Cable operators may charge subscribers a Connecticut sales tax for the lease of remote controls. The tax must be itemized separately on your bill.

Cable Billing Information
Is my cable company allowed to bill me in advance?
Yes, Connecticut regulations allow cable operators to bill subscribers up to two months in advance. However, most cable operators providing service in Connecticut only require payment for one month in advance.

When is payment for my cable bill due?
Connecticut regulations require cable operators to include a specific due date on subscribers’ bills. The due date must be at least five business days from the date the bill was mailed. Your bill should be paid by the specified due date.

When is my account considered delinquent for non-payment?
A subscriber’s account can be considered delinquent if payment has not been received by the cable operator thirty days after the due date shown on the subscriber’s bill.

Is my cable operator allowed to charge me a late fee?
Yes, but only after the following conditions are met: (1) a subscriber’s account must be considered delinquent, meaning payment has not been received within thirty days from the bill due date; (2) the cable operator must provide the subscriber a written late charge notice; and (3) the subscriber must be given eight days from the date the amount becomes delinquent to pay the balance due. If an account meets these conditions, cable operators are allowed to charge up to five percent on the balance due in the form of a one-time late fee. A late fee cannot be imposed on any charge that is in dispute while the complaint mechanism outlined below is being followed.

Is my cable operator allowed to disconnect my service for non-payment?
Cable operators are allowed to disconnect cable service for non-payment under the following conditions: (1) a subscriber’s account must be considered delinquent; (2) the cable operator must give the subscriber written termination notice; and (3) the subscriber must be given at least eight business days from the mailing date of the termination notice to pay the balance due.

What can I do if I disagree with a charge on my cable bill?
Subscribers who disagree with a charge on their cable bill should contact the cable operator as outlined below:
Subscribers should immediately contact the cable operator to file a billing complaint. Under Connecticut regulations, the cable operator must be contacted within thirty days from the due date shown on the subscribers’ bill. The cable operator is required to investigate and respond with a decision within thirty business days of receipt of a billing complaint.

Establishing Cable Service
What information should I receive before I subscribe to cable television? Connecticut regulations require cable operators, upon request, to give potential subscribers written notice of their services, rates, charges, and billing practices before a subscription agreement is reached. The billing practices notice should include the cable operator’s policies regarding frequency and timing of bills, payment requirements necessary to avoid account delinquency, billing dispute resolution procedures, and late payment penalties.

Cable Programming Information
Why does programming differ from community to community? Under federal law, cable operators are allowed to select the programming they want to carry and to package that programming in a manner they determine is best. Cable operators consider a number of factors when deciding how to package their programming. Legal, technical, financial, and demographic factors can influence the cable operator’s decision to carry certain channels. For example, federal regulations require cable operators to include certain over-the-air broadcast channels along with other local channels on the basic service tier.

Are cable operators required to carry local broadcast programming?

Yes, but this is subject to negotiation between the cable operators and broadcasters. Federal law provides broadcasters the option of either requiring a cable operator serving the relevant market to carry its station (“must-carry”), or requesting compensation from the cable operator for the right to carry the broadcaster’s station (“retransmission consent”). Many larger broadcasters choose retransmission consent, and the resultant compensation from cable operators is often passed through to subscribers in the form of a “Broadcast TV Fee” or similar charge. Many smaller broadcasters choose to invoke their must-carry rights.

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www.ct.gov/pura

8
Mar
2021

Citizen Engagement Guide

Citizen Engagement Guide for the CT Legislature and the Energy and Technology Committee

            Each year the CT General Assembly (CGA) goes into Session to do work related to the State budget or specific “bills”/legislation. Your participation as a CT resident is highly encouaged. For those who think writing or calling legislators and/or participating in public hearings is a wasted effort, IT IS NOT! Especially phone calls and emails to legislators—when legislators hear “noise” they pay attention!

What follows is a guide for how to participate in CT’s government process. If you have access to a computer or smart phone , those two tools will be invaluable.

Getting Started and Making Contact

  1. On a computer go to cga.ct.gov – This is the CT General Assembly where all the work of the State Legislature takes place You will now be on the CGA website and homepage. It provides comprehensive information about legislators, Committees and the bills being proposed or passed into law.
  2. Just below the top of the website, see a horizontal bar of selections. Put your cursor on “Committees”, then drag your cursor to the “Energy and Technology” Committee. Click and you will see the cover page for that Committee. Scroll down a bit and on the left see “Committee Membership”. Click and a list of all Committee members appears starting with the leaders of the Committee. Each Committee member shows a link to their website . Click on a link and you’ll go to the legislator’s own website. There you will see a form for sending them a message.
  3. You cannot be anonymous . You must provide your name and contact information. This is the easiest way to reach a legislator and there is no limit to the number of messages you can send on subject matter of importance to you. You can communicate with your legislator this way 365 days a year, not just when the General Assembly is in session.
  4. On a legislator’s own home page you will also find their phone number. When you call the number, anyone of the following might happen:
  • You might reach a receptionist for several legislators, in which case ask

To speak to the “aide” of the legislator you want

  • You might reach the legislator’s “aide”, in which case describe to them who you are and why you are calling. They will relay your message OR as you to follow up in writing
  • You might reach the aide’s voice mail in which case state who you are, your contact info and why you are calling.

Whether you write or call always clearly state:

  • Your name
  • Town you live in
  • Your contact information. Speak slowly and deliberately.

(State your email address and phone number twice. Spell your name

If that would assure it’s understood for a response)

  • When calling about a proposed BILL (or current statute/law), give the Bill # (statute #) and the name of the Bill (statute) you are commenting on
  • State whether you support or do not support the subject matter and why.
  • Be civil, but you can be angry. You can also be passionate, but not hysterical.
  • It is highly effective to describe how the passage of a particular Bill (or the existence of a current statute) would help you or hurt you. Comments that describe the effect on YOU is paid attention to

 

Your Opportunity to have Your Voice Heard —Public Hearings on Bills

During this current 2021 General Assembly, Public Hearings on proposed Bills are conducted virtually using ZOOM.

Go to https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABulletin/Bulletin.asp and find the entry for the Committee hearing you are interested in. Hearing lists are shown in calendar order.

Typically individuals who wish to testify via Zoom must register using the On-line Testimony Registration Form.  The On-line Testimony Registration Form must contain the name of the person who will be testifying.  A unique email address must be provided for each person registered to speak.  Registration closes the day before the hearing at a specific, published time.

Speaker order of approved registrants will be listed in a randomized order and posted on the Committee’s website under Public Hearing Testimony.  For persons who do not have internet access, they may provide testimony via telephone.  To register to testify by phone, call the Phone Registrant Line at (860) 240-0033 to leave your contact information.

Please email written testimony to APPTestimony@cga.ct.gov in Word or PDF format.  Once again, testimony starts with you greeting top members of the committee (by name) followed by your name, where you’re from, whom you represent (if anyone), then your statements in support or against the Bill or subject matter .

Committees request that testimony be limited to matters related to a Bill’s subject matter or the subject matter being discussed in a particular Committee meeting, not a topic from last year or a different Committee’s agenda.

Speakers at a hearing are limited to three minutes of testimony. Committees encourage speakers to submit a written statement and to condense their spoken testimony to a summary of their written statement(to be sure to keep within the 3 minute limitation .

NOTE: All public hearing testimony, written and spoken, is public information.  As such, it will be made available on the CGA website and indexed by internet search engines.

In summary, there are three ways you can submit testimony on one or more Bills.

  1. In Writing –

Go to https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABulletin/Bulletin.asp

 

Use the CalendarBulletins & published Agenda (s) to find out when hearings will occur and the deadline for written testimony. Most committees will accept written testimony via email, prior to start of the hearing. Some may also accept written testimony by mail (USPS). If you miss a hearing date, submit your testimony anyway. All comments from the public count!

  1. By Phone – If a phone number is listed on the bulletin, you may be allowed to testify by phone , and you will still have to register. Follow the instructions in the bulletin to make sure you get authorized to testify, as well as any special instructions you might need to follow.
  2. By Video Call – Virtual Hearings, as described above, are conducted via a video meeting using Zoom. Follow instructions in the bulletin to make sure there will be a live broadcast via CT-N or YouTube.com

If you have questions on any of the above, feel free to submit them to:   our email address

Useful Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTGa87Fz4jw – Watch Committee meetings and hearings

https://cga.ct.gov/asp/Content/YourVoice.asp – a citizen guide

https://cga.ct.gov/ – CT General Assembly website

https://ct-n.com/Default.asp – CT Network Website – see calendar of recorded meetings , what’s coming up live, and on-demand (previous meetings )

 

 

26
Feb
2021

Internet for All

https://www.govtech.com/network/Connecticut-Gov-Introduces-Internet-for-All-Legislation.html

Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday announced a proposed bill that aims to connect all citizens to high-speed Internet service by September 2022. A 2018 survey found that 23 percent of residents did not have Internet access at home.

If passed into law, the bill will allow the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to require Internet service providers to provide access to all residents where they have video licenses — a measure that is currently prohibited.

Citing the importance of high-speed Internet for education and telehealth, Lamont called broadband access “an essential service you need to survive in the 21st-century.”

Referring to his Everybody Learns initiative, Lamont said, “I can get 140,000 Chromebooks out to people, but … it’s like a brick unless you have Internet connectivity.”

A 2018 survey found that 23% of Connecticut residents did not have Internet access at home, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said during a Tuesday morning news conference. It showed that “21% of those without Internet access are white households, 35% are Hispanic households and 34% are African American households,” she said.

“We can close that divide by making sure all families can afford and access broadband Internet in their homes, particularly those in undeserved communities, improving service and establishing stronger consumer protections,” she said. “These steps will help us ensure no one is left at a disadvantage.”

To reduce the costs of building broadband Internet access, state officials said the bill would streamline the permit process that allows providers to install broadband on utility poles. Telecom companies will be required to report annual metrics on availability, download and upload speeds and outage information.

The proposal also aims to make sure government agencies have enough staff and resources to partner with providers and municipalities, so they can map out exactly where access is needed.

To increase consumer protections, the bill will give PURA the ability to oversee user complaints so they can better manage penalties for provider noncompliance. Additionally, it would prevent providers from refusing service to customers due to race, religion, sexual orientation or financial standing, including credit score.

When asked about whether he expects service providers to cooperate with the state’s plan, Lamont said telecom companies “want to have more customers, and we want them to have more customers. We all want more wide availability for this so, we’re not necessarily on different sides of the aisle.”

In addition to state regulations that would incentivize companies to “build out” access, Lamont said he expects the federal government to come forward with an infrastructure bill that includes competitive grants to “get more people wired up faster so, I think we’ll be rolling in the same direction.”

“When President Biden comes forward with their infrastructure bill, high-speed, broadband access is one of the things they’re going to make available,” he said. “It’s a grant, and you’ve got to compete for it. We’ll be the first ones able to say, ‘We’re ready to go.’ ”

Lamont added: “Frankly, I’ve got to take a look at PURA. We’ve got 100 people doing water and electricity, [and] I’ve got a handful doing broadband. Broadband is a big piece of our future. We’ve got to look at that balance.”

While the governor said he’d like to get started on the project as soon as possible, he said “it’s really up to the legislative leadership, where that is on the list of the priorities.”

Rep. Robert Sanchez, a New Britain Democrat and House chair of the legislature’s education committee, called the bill proposal “great news” and “something we desperately need.”

“I’m very eager to get this on the House floor and move it along,” he said. “We’ve been having these discussions but absolutely moreso today because [Internet access] is so critical due to the pandemic.”

At the start of the pandemic, Sanchez said more than 75% of New Britain students did not have Internet service.

“We’re doing better now of course, but we have to do a lot more,” he said. “We have so many kids throughout the state of Connecticut that still cannot connect.”

Rep. Maria Horn, a Salisbury Democrat whose district covers nine towns in the state’s northwest corner in Litchfield County, called Internet access “the roads of the 21st-century.”

“It affects us in every possible way. …. It’s critical during the pandemic but to be clear, this is of long-term importance to us,” she said, noting that telehealth is the “only way” to deliver special medical services to people in Connecticut’s rural areas.

“Same goes for education, same goes for economic development,” she said. “We have had the great privilege of having an influx of new families moving into our area and enrolling their children in our schools. … They need high-speed Internet access in order to stay here.”

©2021 The Hartford Courant, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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