Cable Consumer Information
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The Vermont Public Service Board (Board or PSB) does not regulate cable telelevision rates. In Vermont the two major cable television companies (Comcast and Charter) have been granted the "under effective competition" designation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has made a determination that there are enough competitors, such as satellite dish providers, throughout these companies' service territories to warrant deregulation. What this means for consumers is that these cable companies are no longer subject to Board regulation with regard to their rates.
However, under state and federal law, the Board may regulate fees used to pay for the operation of channels providing public, governmental, and educational (PEG) access. The Board also has authority to regulate customer service issues, including service quality, reliability, and signal quality; as well as rates for items such as late fees, returned check charges, deposits, and disconnections.
Neither the FCC nor the Board regulate cable television programming. What this means for consumers is that cable television companies have broad discretion as to what channels they will provide and how they package those channels in the plans they offer to consumers.
For some consumers, getting service is a simple matter of having a line (or drop) strung from the pole at the street down to the house at no charge. However, for others getting service may mean paying for a line extension.
There is a specific formula used to determine whether someone's location falls within the density requirements under which a line extension would be built without any customer cost, or contribution-in-aid-of-construction (CIAC). If your location falls within this standard, then the cable company will build whatever lines, poles, etc., are needed to bring service to your location at no CIAC cost to you.
On the other hand, many locations do not meet the density criteria. Because the Board has determined that all ratepayers cannot be asked to bear the costs (through rates) for bringing service to lower-density locations, consumers requesting cable service are required to contribute towards the costs for construction. If others in your neighborhood commit to also subscribing to service made available by this line extension, the costs would be shared. However, the Vermont Public Service Department recognizes that the cost may make it impossible for some consumers to pay for a line extension. The State of Vermont is committed to doing all it can to ensure Vermonters have access to the services that meet their recreation and communications needs. Contact your cable service company and ask for a preliminary estimate. The company will advise you whether or not CIAC will be required, and will give you an estimate for that cost.