Summary: S.66 — 98th Congress (1983-1984)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Senate agreed to House amendment with amendment (10/11/1984)

(Senate agreed to House amendments with an amendment)

Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to set forth national policy for the regulation of cable television.

Authorizes a Federal, State, or local governmental entity empowered to grant a cable franchise (franchising authority) to establish and enforce franchise requirements for the designation or use of channel capacity for public, educational, or governmental use. Prohibits a cable operator from exercising any editorial control over such use of channel capacity.

Requires the operator of a cable system with more than 35 activated channels to designate a specified percentage of its channel capacity for commercial use by unaffiliated persons under terms sufficient to assure that such use will not adversely affect the operation, financial condition, or market development of the system. Permits a cable operator to offer in a franchise to provide channel capacity for other than commercial use by unaffiliated persons. Prohibits an operator from exercising any editorial control over, or otherwise considering, the content of any video programming provided under such commercial use, except to the minimum extent necessary to establish a reasonable price for such use. Provides for judicial or administrative relief for any person aggrieved by the failure or refusal of a cable operator to make channel capacity available for such commercial use. Authorizes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): (1) to establish any rule or order necessary to remedy a pattern or practice of violations of such diversity of information sources requirement by an operator; and (2) at such time as cable systems with more than 35 activated channels are available to 70 percent of U.S. households and are subscribed to by 70 percent of the households to which they are available, to promulgate any additional rules necessary to provide for diversity of information sources. Empowers franchising authorities to prohibit or condition the provision of cable services which are obscene, in conflict with community standards, or otherwise unprotected by the Constitution.

Prohibits a person from owning or controlling a cable system if such person owns or controls the licensee of a television broadcast station the predicted grade B contour (field strength) of which covers any part of the community served by such cable system.

Prohibits a common carrier from providing: (1) video programming directly to subscribers in its telephone service area, either directly or indirectly through an affiliate; or (2) pole line conduit space, or channels of communications, to any entity that it owns or controls, if such facilities are to be used for such provision of video programming. Exempts a common carrier to the extent it provides telephone exchange service in any rural area. Authorizes the FCC to waive such prohibitions: (1) where cable video programming could not be provided except through a system owned, operated, or controlled by, or affiliated with, the common carrier involved; or (2) upon other showing of good cause.

Authorizes the FCC to prescribe rules governing cable system ownership or control by persons who own or control other mass communications media serving the same community. Prohibits any State or franchising authority from prohibiting the ownership or control of a cable system by any person because of such person's ownership or control of any media interest. Authorizes a State or franchising authority to: (1) hold an ownership interest in a cable system; and (2) exercise editorial control over the content of any cable service on such system only through a separate entity.

Authorizes a franchising authority to award one or more franchises within its jurisdiction. Provides that a franchise shall authorize construction of a cable system over public rights-of-way and through easements, provided the cable operator ensures that in using such easements: (1) the safety, functioning, and appearance of the property and the safety and convenience of other persons not be adversely affected by the installation of cable facilities; (2) the operator, the individual subscriber, or both shall pay the cost of installing, operating, and removing such facilities; and (3) the property owner shall be justly compensated for any resulting damages. Directs such authority to assure that access to cable service is not denied to any group of potential residential cable subscribers because of the income of the residents of the local area in which such group resides.

Prohibits a cable operator from providing cable service without a franchise. Provides that a cable system shall not be subject to regulation as a common carrier or utility by reason of providing any cable service.

Permits a State or the FCC to require a cable system to file tariffs specifying the rates, terms, and conditions for the provision of any intrastate communications service, other than cable service, provided by such system that would be subject to FCC regulations if offered by a common carrier.

Authorizes a franchising authority to require a cable operator to pay a franchise fee not to exceed five percent of such operator's gross revenues for a 12-month period. Provides for payment of such fee on a prepaid or deferred basis. Requires an operator to pass through to subscribers the amount of any decrease in a franchise fee, and authorizes an operator to pass through any increase, unless the franchising authority demonstrates and notifies the operator that the rate structure under the franchise reflects all costs of franchise fees.

Authorizes a franchising authority to impose an assessment on any person other than a cable operator for cable service or other communications service provided by such person over a cable system for which charges are assessed to subscribers but not received by the cable operator. Limits the maximum assessment to five percent of such person's revenues derived from such service over a 12-month period.

Prohibits any Federal agency from regulating such franchise fees or cable service assessments.

Prohibits any Federal agency or State from regulating cable service rates. Authorizes a franchising authority to regulate cable service rates only: (1) under regulations to be prescribed by the FCC with respect to a cable system that is not subject to effective competition; and (2) for two years after enactment of this Act to the extent provided in a franchise granted on or before enactment of this Act. Allows a cable operator to increase any rate subject to such regulation by up to five percent per year unless such an increase would exceed rates specified under the franchise. Provides that any State law in effect on the effective date of this title which limits or preempts the regulation of rates by a franchising authority shall remain in effect for two years.

Provides that nothing in this Act shall prohibit any Federal agency, State, or franchising authority from: (1) prohibiting discrimination among customers of basic cable service; or (2) regulating the installation or rental of equipment for the reception of basic cable service by hearing impaired individuals.

Directs the FCC to study the effect of competition in the cable service marketplace and to report to Congress within six years after enactment of this Act regarding rate regulation of cable services.

Authorizes a franchising authority to establish requirements for facilities and equipment related to the establishment or operation of a cable system under any franchise granted after the effective date of this Act. Authorizes the FCC to establish technical standards relating to such requirements. Prohibits an authority from establishing requirements for video programming or other information services under such a franchise. Authorizes an authority to enforce requirements contained within a franchise in effect on the effective date of this Act for the provision of services, facilities, and equipment, whether or not related to the establishment or operation of a cable system.

Requires a cable operator, at the request of a subscriber, to provide (by sale or lease) a device by which the subscriber can prohibit viewing of a particular cable service during periods selected by that subscriber.

Prohibits any Federal, State, or franchising authority from regulating the provision or content of cable services other than as provided under this Act, except that any rules, regulations, or orders that were in effect of September 21, 1983, that are amended and consistent with this Act, or that are promulgated under the Copyright Act, shall remain in effect.

Authorizes a cable operator to obtain from a franchising authority modifications of franchise requirements concerning: (1) facilities or equipment, including public, educational, or governmental access facilities or equipment, if the operator demonstrates that complying with such requirements is commercially impracticable; and (2) services, if the operator demonstrates that the mix, quality, and level of services required by the franchise will be maintained. Provides for the judicial review of a denial of such a modification request. Permits a cable operator to rearrange, replace, or remove a required cable service after providing 30 days' advance notice to the franchising authority if: (1) such service is no longer available to the operator; or (2) such service is available to the operator only upon payment of a copyright royalty which substantially exceeds the amount required when the operator offered to provide such service and which has not been specifically compensated for through a rate adjustment. Authorizes an operator to rearrange services from one service tier to another or to offer services if the rates for all the service tiers involved are not subject to regulation by a Federal, State, or franchising authority. Declares that an operator may not obtain modification of any requirements for services relating to public, educational, or governmental access.

Authorizes (requires, at an operator's request) a franchising authority, during the six-month period beginning three years before a franchise expires, to review a cable operator's performance and identify future cable-related community needs and interests. Allows the operator to submit a proposal for franchise renewal after such review. Directs the franchising authority, during the four months following completion of such review, to either renew the franchise or issue a preliminary assessment that the franchise should not be renewed and commence proceedings to consider whether: (1) the operator met the terms of the franchise and existing law; (2) the quality of the operator's service has been reasonable in light of community needs; (3) the operator has the capability to provide the services, facilities, and equipment set forth in the proposal; and (4) the operator's proposal is reasonable to meet future community needs and interests. Prohibits a franchising authority from denying renewal: (1) based on an operator's activities occurring after the effective date of this Act unless such authority provides the operator with notice and an opportunity to cure; or (2) when the authority has waived its right to object or has acquiesced to renewal. Provides for the judicial review of a decision not to renew a franchise. Authorizes a cable operator to submit a proposal for franchise renewal, and the franchising authority to grant or deny such proposal at any time without regard to the preceding provisions of this paragraph. Requires a franchising authority to afford the public adequate notice and opportunity to comment concerning any franchise renewal.

Requires the acquisition or transfer by a franchising authority of a cable system which is denied renewal of its franchise to be: (1) at fair market value determined on the basis of the cable system valued as a going concern but with no value allocated to the franchise; or (2) at a price determined in accordance with the franchise if in existence on the effective date of this Act. Requires the acquisition or transfer by a franchising authority of a cable system for which the franchise is revoked to be: (1) at an equitable price; or (2) at a price determined in accordance with an existing franchise.

Requires a cable operator, upon entering an agreement to provide service and annually thereafter, to notify a subscriber concerning: (1) the nature, use, and possible disclosures of personally identifiable information to be collected about the subscriber; (2) the period such information will be maintained; (3) the subscriber's access to such information; (4) the limitations on the operator's collection and disclosure of such information; and (5) the subscriber's rights to enforce such limitations. Prohibits an operator from using the cable system to collect such information without the subscriber's consent, except to: (1) obtain information necessary to provide a cable service or other service to the subscriber; or (2) detect unauthorized reception of cable communications. Prohibits an operator from disclosing such information without the subscriber's consent, unless the disclosure is: (1) necessary to conduct a legitimate business activity related to a cable service or other service provided to the subscriber; (2) made pursuant to a court order if the subscriber is notified of such order; or (3) a disclosure of names and addresses of subscribers, provided the operator has offered the subscriber the opportunity to prohibit such disclosure and such disclosure will not reveal the subscriber's use of any service or the nature of any transaction made by the subscriber over the cable system. Requires that the subscriber be provided access to such information. Directs an operator to destroy such information when it becomes unnecessary, unless there is a request for such information by the subscriber or a court order. Permits a governmental entity to obtain such information pursuant to a court order upon showing that such information would be material evidence in a criminal case involving the subscriber. Authorizes a U.S. district court to award specified actual damages, punitive damages, and legal fees to any person aggrieved by an operator's violation of these provisions.

Authorizes a franchising authority to require a franchise to include provisions for enforcement of customer service requirements and construction requirements of the cable operator.

Prohibits any person from intercepting or receiving cable communication services without specific authorization by a cable operator or by law. Sets forth provisions governing civil remedies, the determination of civil damages, and criminal penalties for violations of such prohibition.

Requires any corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, or trust which operates or manages a cable system to establish, maintain, and execute an equal employment opportunity program. Sets forth certification and reporting requirements with respect to the programs of such entities with more than five full-time employees. Requires the FCC, at least every five years, to investigate the employment practices of each of such entities to determine compliance with program requirements. Establishes penalties for failing to comply with such requirements. Permits employees or applicants for employment who believe they have been discriminated against in violation of program requirements to file a complaint with the FCC. Requires FCC regulations to specify procedures for investigating such complaints and enforcing program requirements.

Preempts and supersedes any provision of State, Federal, or local law and any provision of any franchise that is inconsistent with this Act, except that the provisions of any franchise in effect on the effective date of this Act and the provisions of any State law in effect on the effective date of this Act concerning the designation or use of cable channel capacity for public, educational, or governmental use shall remain in effect for the remaining term of the franchise.

Exempts cable operators from liability for any program carried on any channel designated for public, educational, or governmental use or for commercial use by unaffiliated persons.

Establishes penalties for transmitting over any cable system any matter which is obscene or otherwise unprotected by the Constitution.

Provides that a State shall not be considered to regulate the rates, terms, and conditions for pole attachments unless: (1) the State has issued and made effective regulations implementing such regulatory authority; and (2) the State takes final action on a complaint about an individual matter within 180 days after such complaint is filed, or within such other period not exceeding 360 days as may be prescribed under State regulations.

Provides that provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 prohibiting the unauthorized reception or use of any radio communication shall not apply to the reception or use of any satellite cable programming for private viewing if: (1) the programming is not encrypted; and (2) authorization for private viewing is not available to the individual involved from designated agents of an established marketing system for such programming; or (3) such individual has obtained such authorization. Sets forth penalties for violations of such prohibition for purposes of private use and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. Establishes a civil cause of action under which a person aggrieved by such a violation may recover: (1) actual damages plus any profits of the violator attributable to the violation; or (2) specified statutory damages. Applies the same penalties and remedies to the importation, manufacture, sale, or distribution of equipment designed to assist in the prohibited reception, use, or publication of the contents of any wire or radio communication.

Declares that nothing in this or any other Act shall be construed to prohibit the FCC or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from supporting any activities of the United Telecommunications Training Institute.

Establishes the Telecommunications Policy Study Commission to: (1) compare telecommunications policies of the United States and other nations; (2) evaluate the impact of such policies on the regulation of interstate and foreign commerce; and (3) submit a report on its findings by December 1, 1987, to Congress, the President, and the FCC. Terminates the Commission on: (1) December 1, 1987, if such report is not submitted by such date; or (2) on a later date prescribed by the FCC if the report is submitted by such date. Authorizes appropriations.

Declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow a State, political subdivision, or franchising authority to require a cable operator to restore, re-tier, or re-price any cable service which was lawfully eliminated, re-tiered, or re-priced as of September 26, 1984.