Rates & Programming
The Vermont Public Utility Commission (Commission or PUC) 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 Commission regulation with regard to their rates. However, under state and federal law, the Commission may regulate fees used to pay for the operation of channels providing public, governmental, and educational (PEG) access. The Commission 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 Commission 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 information about cable television regulation, please see PSB Rule 8.000.
The digital television (DTV) transition refers to the switch from analog to digital broadcast television signals, mandated by the FCC several years ago. All full-power television stations have stopped broadcasting in analog format and now broadcast only in digital. Until recently, some consumers who have had basic-only cable television service were "grandfathered in" and continued to receive analog signal and channels from their cable television provider. Charter and Comcast had been receiving digital signals from the broadcast networks and retransmitting the signals to consumers in analog format. However, both companies are migrating over to digital-only service and some consumers have reported to the Consumer Affairs & Public Information (CAPI) Division that they have experienced problems with their cable television service as a result. If you are experiencing problems with your cable television service as a result of your cable company migrating from analog to digital format, and you are not able to resolve the problem with your cable provider, contact CAPI at 1-800-622-4496.
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 Commission 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 Department of Public Service 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.
Public, Educational & Governmental (PEG) Access
Public, Educational and Governmental Access, or PEG Access, refers to the one or more channels on every cable television system's basic tier that must be made available for local programming originating with local goverment, educational institutions, or members of the public. For additional information about PEG Access, see the Public Access page.