[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Swatara as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 12-14-1973 by Ord. No. 1973-15]
In all cases where utility lines installed in Swatara Township are required by any authority to be placed underground, cable television facilities shall likewise and in the same manner be placed underground for present or future use.
[Adopted 3-9-1994 by Ord. No. 1994-3; amended in its entirety 11-13-2002 by Ord. No. 2002-10]
This article shall be known and may be cited as the "Swatara Township Cable Rate Regulation Ordinance."
This article is enacted pursuant to the Federal Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 and the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, both of which amended the Federal Communications Act of 1934. Section 623 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 543, states that "any franchising authority may regulate the rates for the provisions of cable services... but only to the extent provided under this section." This article is also enacted pursuant to the rate regulations adopted by the FCC contained in Subpart N, entitled "Cable Rate Regulation," 47 CFR 76.900 et seq.
The following terms used in this article shall have, unless the context clearly dictates otherwise, the following meanings:
- ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
- All equipment in a subscriber's home, provided and maintained by the operator, that is used to receive the basic service tier, regardless of whether such equipment is additionally used to receive other tiers of regulated programming service and/or unregulated service. Such equipment shall include, but is not limited to converter boxes, remote control units, and inside wiring.
- BASIC SERVICE
- At a minimum, all signals of domestic television broadcast stations provided to any subscriber (except a signal secondarily transmitted by satellite regardless of how such signal is ultimately received by the cable system), any public, educational, and governmental programming required by the franchise to be carried on the basic tier, and any additional video programming signals or service added to the basic tier by the cable operator.
- BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
- The governing body of the Township of Swatara.
- CABLE OPERATOR or OPERATOR
- Any person or group of persons:
- CABLE SERVICE
- The one-way transmission to subscribers of video programming or other programming service and subscriber interaction, if any, which is required for the selection or use of such video programming or other programming service.
- CABLE SYSTEM
- A facility, consisting of a set of closed transmission paths and associated signal generation, reception, and control equipment that is designed to provide cable service which includes video programming and which is provided to multiple subscribers within a community, but such term does not include:
- A. A facility that serves only to retransmit the television signals of one or more television broadcast stations;
- B. A facility that serves subscribers without using any public right-of-way;
- C. A facility of a common carrier which is subject, in whole or in part, to the provisions of Title II of the Communications Act, except that such facility shall be considered a cable system [other than for purposes of Section 621(c) of the Communications Act] to the extent such facility is used in the transmission of video programming directly to subscribers unless the extent of that use is solely to provide interactive on-demand services;
- D. An open video system that complies with Section 653 of the Communications Act; or
- E. Any facilities of any electric utility used solely for operating its electric utility systems.
- The Federal Communications Commission.
- FRANCHISING AUTHORITY
- A governmental or public entity that has filed a Form 328 with the FCC and is certified by the FCC to regulate basic service and associated equipment rates, oversee the operations of a cable operator and its compliance with a franchise agreement.
- An individual, partnership, association, joint stock company, trust, corporation or governmental entity.
- Any person or entity who contracts with a cable operator for, and lawfully receives, the video signals and applicable cable services distributed by the cable system.
Editor's Note: See 47 U.S.C. § 573.
The Township has submitted a completed FCC Form 328 with the FCC and is certified by the FCC as a franchising authority to regulate basic service and associated equipment rates in accordance with the applicable regulations of the FCC.
In addition to the regulations contained in this article, the rate regulations of the FCC contained in Subpart N, entitled "Cable Rate Regulation," 47 CFR 76.900 et seq., as may be amended, are hereby adopted for the review and determination of reasonable and lawful rates for basic service and associated equipment.
Only the rates of cable systems that are not subject to effective competition may be regulated. In the absence of a demonstration by a cable operator to the contrary, a cable system is presumed not to be subject to effective competition.
The compliance officer shall be responsible for:
Taking such actions on behalf of the Township as may from time to time be required to obtain or maintain the Township's certification to regulate basic service and associated equipment rates.
Notifying all cable operators serving the Township when the Township has become certified by the FCC to regulate basic service and associated equipment rates and has adopted this article.
Receiving, filing in the public records of the Township, reviewing for completeness, and, if appropriate, placing on the Board of Commissioners agenda for consideration, rate regulatory forms and other filings by cable operators required to be submitted pursuant to applicable federal law and regulations.
Enforcing the provisions of this article and all decisions of the Board of Commissioners made hereunder to the fullest extent permitted by federal law and regulations, subject to the oversight and control of the Board of Commissioners.
Taking such other actions as may be necessary from time to time, subject to the oversight and control of the Board of Commissioners, to protect the rights of the Township to regulate basic service and associated equipment rates to the fullest extent permitted by federal law and regulations.
A cable operator shall file its schedule of rates for the basic service tier and associated equipment within 30 days of receiving written notification from the Township that is has been certified as a franchising authority to regulate rates. The cable operator shall include rate cards and channel line-ups with its filing and include an explanation of any discrepancy in the figures provided in these documents and its rate filing.
A cable operator shall provide written notice to each subscriber of any increase in the rates to be charged for the basic service tier or associated equipment at least 30 days before any increase becomes effective.
A cable operator shall submit to the Township the rate regulatory forms required by the FCC, including, but not limited to, FCC Form 1240 and FCC Form 1205, on a periodic basis and in a timely fashion as required by applicable federal law and regulations. The deadlines for submission of such forms are dependent upon the cable operator's election to employ the annual rate adjustment method or the quarterly rate adjustment method. Should applicable federal law and/or regulations be amended to alter the rate adjustment methods, then the cable operator shall comply with such amendments.
A cable operator shall comply with all requests for information, orders and decisions of the Township. No cable operator shall, in any information submitted to the Township in making a rate determination pursuant to an FCC rate regulatory form filing, make any misrepresentation or willful material omission bearing on any matter within the Township's jurisdiction.
Upon receipt of FCC rate regulatory forms, including, but not limited to, FCC Form 1240 and FCC Form 1205, from a cable operator proposing any change in basic service and/or associated equipment rates, the compliance officer shall review the forms to determine whether the filing is complete. If the filing is incomplete, the compliance officer shall notify the cable operator within the applicable time period required by federal law and regulations and ask the cable operator to submit such additional information as is necessary to make the filing complete. The time period for review by the Township shall be extended for the cable operator to complete the filing in accordance with applicable federal law and regulations.
Upon receipt of completed FCC rate regulatory forms from a cable operator, the compliance officer shall make an initial determination as to whether the proposed rate adjustments are reasonable and lawful pursuant to applicable federal law and regulations. The compliance officer may engage the services of an expert in cable rate regulation to assist in making such initial determination.
Should the compliance officer make an initial determination that the cable operator's proposed rates are unreasonable and unlawful, the compliance officer shall place the issue on the Board of Commissioners's agenda for public consideration in the form of a rate-making proceeding. The Board of Commissioners shall provide a reasonable opportunity for public comment and for consideration of the views of interested parties.
Upon conclusion of the rate-making proceeding, the Board of Commissioners shall render a decision on whether the cable operator's proposed rates are reasonable and lawful. The Board of Commissioners shall issue a written decision if it disapproves an initial rate for basic service and/or associated equipment in whole or in part, disapproves a request for a rate increase in whole or in part, or approves a request for a rate increase in whole or in part over the objections of interested parties. Public notice shall be given regarding any written decision, including releasing the text of the written decision to the public.
As part of the rate-making proceeding, the Township may require the production of proprietary information to make a rate determination. The Township shall state a justification for each item of information requested and, where related to an FCC form, indicate the question or section of the form to which the request specifically relates. Upon request by a cable operator, the parties to a rate proceeding shall have access to such information subject to the Township's procedures governing nondisclosure by the parties. Public access to such proprietary information shall be governed by applicable state and local law.
In rendering its decisions, the Board of Commissioners shall have the full authority to order a cable operator to take any and all enforcement actions permitted by applicable federal law and regulations, including, but not limited to, the following:
Ordering a cable operator to implement a reduction in basic service or associated equipment rates where necessary to bring rates into compliance with the standards set forth in applicable federal law and regulations.
Prescribing a reasonable rate for basic service or associated equipment after it determines that a proposed rate is unreasonable and unlawful.
Ordering a cable operator to refund to subscribers that portion of previously paid rates determined to be in excess of the permitted tier charge or above the actual cost of equipment, unless the operator has submitted a cost-of-service showing which justifies the rate charged as reasonable. Any such refund order shall be further subject to the limitations contained in applicable federal law and regulations.
In the event that a cable operator does not comply with an order or decision made pursuant to this article and directed specifically toward the cable operator, the cable operator is subject to a fine of not more than $500 per violation. Each day of continuous violation of any of the provisions of this article shall constitute a separate violation.