[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Warren 3-16-2020 by Ord. No. 1944. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 180, Cable Television, adopted 12-13-1993 by Ord. No. 1573 (Ch. 13, Part 2, of the 1997 Code of Ordinances).
The purpose of this chapter is:
To authorize the City of Warren to set forth the process for the franchising and regulation of any cable system within its geographical boundaries; and
To create a uniform process by which all cable operators seeking to provide cable service in the City shall follow in making application for a cable franchise; and
To protect the health, safety, and welfare of the City's citizens; and
To maintain the integrity of City property; and
To achieve the above-described purposes in a manner consistent with applicable laws and regulations.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CABLE ACT
- Title VI of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competitive Act of 1992, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as it may, from time to time, be further amended.
- CABLE 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 the City, but such term does not include:
- A. A facility that serves only to retransmit the television signals of one or more television broadcast stations; or
- B. A facility that serves subscribers without using any public right-of-way; or
- 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 of the Cable Act), to the extent that 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; or
- D. An open video system that complies with Section 653 of the Cable Act; or
- E. Any facilities of any electric utility used solely for operating its electric utility systems.
- The City of Warren.
- The Federal Communications Commission.
- The right granted by the City to construct, operate, and maintain a cable system within the corporate limits of the City as further embodied in the terms and conditions of a cable franchise agreement.
- A person, firm, or corporation that is awarded a franchise by the Warren City Council to construct, operate, and maintain a cable system in all, or part, of the City.
- FRANCHISING AUTHORITY
- Any governmental entity empowered by federal, state, or local law to grant a franchise.
- SERVICE INTERRUPTION
- The loss of picture or sound on one or more channels.
- A person or entity who contracts with the cable operator for, and lawfully receives, the video signals and cable services distributed by the cable system.
As set forth in Section 621(a)(1) of the Cable Act, 47 U.S.C. § 541, the City has the legal authority to award one or more cable franchises within its jurisdiction, except that it may not grant an exclusive franchise and may not unreasonably refuse to award an additional competitive franchise.
No cable operator shall install, maintain, or operate within the City or any of its public streets or other public areas any equipment or facilities for the operation of a cable system without first obtaining a franchise from the City authorizing the use of public streets or areas pursuant to the provisions of this chapter and applicable law. Such franchise shall contain all of the terms and conditions as set forth in a cable franchise agreement as required by this chapter and applicable law.
Any cable operator desiring to construct, operate, and maintain a new cable system within the City must first file an application with the Warren City Council; the application shall contain such information as the City may require. Any franchise granted by the City shall be in accordance with Section 621 of the Cable Act, entitled "General Franchise Requirements" (47 U.S.C. § 541), and a franchise agreement must be executed by both the franchisee and the City.
A franchisee seeking renewal of a franchise may, on such franchisee's initiative, or upon the initiative of the City, submit a written request to the City for a cable franchise renewal agreement. Such request for renewal, as well as the entire franchise renewal process, shall comply with the terms and provisions of Section 626 of the Cable Act, entitled "Renewal" (47 U.S.C. § 546).
Before authorizing the issuance of any cable franchise, including initial franchises and renewals, the City shall conduct a public hearing to obtain citizen comments. Such public hearing shall be scheduled after affording the public adequate notice. The City shall also review the applicant's financial and technical qualifications and adequacy and feasibility of its qualifications to operate a cable system. In the case of renewals, the City shall also identify the City's future cable-related community needs and interests and review the past performance of the cable operator during the expiring franchise term.
Any cable franchise agreement entered into between the City and a franchisee shall contain, but is not limited to, the following provisions:
Length of franchise term; and
Franchise fee provisions; and
Construction, operation, and maintenance standards; and
Insurance requirements; and
Indemnification provisions; and
Public, educational, and government (PEG) access channel provisions (should the City wish to operate one or more access channels); and
Performance bond or other form of security; and
Penalties for breach of franchise agreement; and
Provisions for transfer and assignment of franchise; and
Any other terms which are deemed by the Warren City Council to be in the best interests of the City residents and are consistent with applicable law.
Any cable franchise agreement entered into between the City and a franchisee shall contain, at a minimum, the following customer service standards:
office hours and telephone availability.
The cable operator shall maintain a payment location that is located within the City and shall be open during normal business hours.
The cable operator shall provide and maintain a toll-free telephone access line that will be available to subscribers twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week. Trained representatives shall respond to subscribers' telephone inquiries during normal business hours. After normal business hours, the access line may be answered by a service or an automated response system. Inquiries received after normal business hours must be responded to by a trained company representative on the next business day.
Under normal operating conditions and during normal business hours, telephone answering time by a subscriber representative, including wait time, shall not exceed 30 seconds after the connection is made. If the call needs to be transferred, transfer time shall not exceed 30 seconds. These standards shall be met no less than 90% of the time, measured on a quarterly basis. Under normal operating conditions, the subscriber shall receive a busy signal less than 3% of the time.
If an historical record of complaints indicates clear failure to comply, the cable operator may be required to perform surveys to measure compliance with the telephone answering requirements above. If the City determines, after receiving complaints itself and/or receiving a record of complaints made to the cable operator, that there is a failure to comply with the telephone answering requirements above, the City shall notify the cable operator, in writing, that it must measure its compliance with these requirements for the next 90 days and report to the City with its results.
Installations and service calls.
The cable operator shall maintain a staff of employees sufficient to provide adequate and prompt service to subscribers; and
The cable operator shall require that any employee or agent, including any subcontractor, who personally visits a subscriber's property shall display a photo identification badge; and
Any vehicle used for installation, operation, or maintenance activities by any cable operator's employees or agents, including any subcontractors, shall prominently display the company logo; and
Standard installations will be performed within seven business days after an order has been placed. Standard installations are those aerial installations that are located not more than 125 feet from the existing distribution system; and
Upon scheduling of appointments with the subscriber for installations, service calls, and other activities, the cable operator shall provide the subscriber with either a specific time or an appointment window of a maximum of four hours during normal business hours. The cable operator may schedule service calls and installation activities outside of normal business hours at a time that is convenient for the subscriber.
The cable operator shall provide written notice to each subscriber upon initial subscription, and once per calendar year thereafter and at any time upon request, regarding each of the following:
Products and services offered;
Prices and options for programming services and conditions of subscription to programming and other services;
Channel positions of programming carried on the cable system;
Installation and service maintenance policies;
Instruction on how to use the cable service and any converters;
Billing and subscriber complaint procedures;
The cable operator's address, telephone number, and office hours; and
A notice of subscriber privacy rights as required by federal law.
In accordance with applicable law, the cable operator shall notify subscribers and the City, in writing, of any changes in rates, programming, service, or channel positions a minimum of thirty (30) days in advance of such changes, provided that such change is within the control of the cable operator. The cable operator shall not be required to provide prior notice to subscribers of any rate change that is a result of a regulatory fee, franchise fee, or any other fee, tax assessment, or charge of any kind imposed by any federal agency, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the City on the transaction between the cable operator and the subscriber.
In accordance with federal law, the cable operator shall maintain a file available to the public containing all written notices provided to subscribers pursuant to the requirements contained herein by the cable operator during the previous 12 months. Such file may be maintained electronically.
Bills shall be clear, concise, and understandable. Bills must be fully itemized, including all applicable service tiers, equipment charges, and any installation or repair charges. Bills shall state the billing period, including an effective due date, the amount of current billing, and any relevant credits or past-due balances.
The cable operator shall not assess late fees for nonpayment of a current bill until at least 30 days have elapsed since the invoice date of the bill generated by the cable operator.
Subscriber complaint procedures. The cable operator shall establish clear written procedures for resolving all subscriber complaints which shall include at least the following:
The cable operator shall provide the customer with a written response to a written complaint within 30 days of its receipt. Such response shall include the results of its inquiry into the subject matter of the complaint, its conclusions based on the inquiry and its decision in response to the complaint.
If the City is contacted directly about a customer complaint, it shall notify the cable operator promptly and in writing. When the cable operator receives such notification, the time period for the cable operator to respond as required above shall commence.
Any subscriber who, in good faith, disputes all or part of any bill sent by the cable operator has the option of withholding the disputed amount, without a late fee or disconnection, until the cable operator has investigated the dispute in good faith and has made a determination that the amount is owed, provided that:
The cable operator shall maintain subscriber complaint records for inspection by the affected subscriber, which shall contain the date each complaint is received, the name and address of the affected subscriber, a description of the complaint, the date of resolution of the complaint, and a description of the resolution.
Disconnection. The cable operator may disconnect or terminate a subscriber's service for cause:
If at least 45 days have elapsed from the due date of the bill that the subscriber has failed to pay; and
If the cable operator has provided at least 10 days' written notice to the affected subscriber prior to disconnection, specifying the effective date after which cable services are subject to disconnection. For purposes of this section, written notice contained in the customer's statement shall be deemed sufficient; and
If there is no pending written dispute with the cable operator regarding the bill; or
If at any time and without notice, the cable operator determines in good faith that the subscriber has tampered with or abused the cable operator's equipment or is engaged in theft of cable service.
Service interruptions. In the event that there is a service interruption to any subscriber for 12 or more consecutive hours, excluding those service interruptions which are a result of force majeure or not under the control of the cable operator, and upon receipt of a request of the subscriber, the cable operator shall grant such subscriber a pro rata credit or rebate, on a daily basis, of that portion of the service charge during the next consecutive billing cycle, or, at its option, apply such credit to any outstanding balance that is currently due.
Privacy. The cable operator shall respect the rights and privacy of every subscriber and shall not violate such rights through the use of any device or signal associated with the cable system. The cable operator shall at all times comply with the privacy provisions of Section 631 of the Cable Act and all other applicable federal and state privacy laws and regulations.
Editor's Note: See 47 U.S.C. § 551.
The City reserves the regulatory authority arising from the Cable Act and any other applicable federal or state regulations. Nothing in this chapter shall remove, restrict, or reduce the City's authority, rights, and privileges it now holds, or which hereafter may be conferred upon it, including any right to exercise its police powers in the regulation and control of the use of the public rights-of-way.
The cable operator's rights are subject to the police powers of the City to adopt and enforce general laws and regulations necessary for the safety and welfare of the public. Such laws and regulations are separate and distinct from the terms and conditions contained in the agreement.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit the authority of the City to impose any tax, fee, or assessment of general applicability. Such taxes, fees, or assessments shall be in addition to franchise fees.
Any cable operator providing cable service in the City shall apply to the City for all generally applicable required permits and shall not undertake any activities in the public rights-of-way subject to a permit without receipt of such permit, the issuance of which shall not be unreasonably withheld by the City. cable operators shall not be required to obtain permits for cable service drops for individual subscribers or for servicing or installation of pedestals or routine maintenance that does not disturb surface grade or impact vehicular traffic. The cable operator shall pay any and all required permit fees.
Determination of violation. In the event a determination is made by the City that a cable operator has violated any provision of the franchise or this chapter, the City shall provide such cable operator written notice of the determination and the reasons thereof. Except in the case of emergency, the cable operator shall have 30 days after receiving such notice to cure the violation. If the nature of the violation is such that it cannot be fully cured within such time period, the City may, in its reasonable judgment, extend the time period to cure, provided the cable operator has commenced to cure and is diligently pursuing its efforts to cure. If the violation has not been cured within the time allowed, the cable operator shall be subject to the penalties set forth in Subsection B, Penalties for violation, below.
Penalties for violation. Any cable operator found by the City to have violated any provision of this chapter shall be subject, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding $150 per day for each and every offense. A separate and distinct offense shall be deemed to be committed each day on which a violation occurs or continues to occur. The first day that these penalties may be assessed, if there has been no cure after the end of the applicable cure period, shall be the day after the end of the applicable cure period, including any extension of the cure period granted by the City.
Revocation. In addition to any action to enforce any penalty imposed by this section and any other remedy at law or in equity under this section, the City reserves a separate and distinct right to revoke the franchise in a manner consistent with the terms and conditions of the franchise and applicable law.
A cable operator shall not transfer, assign, or otherwise encumber, through its own actions or by operation of law, its right, title, or interest in any franchise awarded pursuant to this chapter without prior written consent of the City, and according to the applicable provisions set forth in the franchise and applicable law.