Video service regulation in Ohio
On June 25, 2007, Governor Strickland signed Senate Bill 117, which created a new, state-issued video-authorization process to replace the local cable television franchise process. The law gave the Ohio Department of Commerce jurisdiction over cable television providers who are granted state-issued video authorization, but not over satellite television providers.
Prior to the effective date of the law, a company that intended to provide cable television service had to obtain a local cable franchise from each municipality or township. A company may apply for a state-issued cable authorization, which may consist of multiple communities. The authorization term is 10 years, but cable television providers with state-issued video-service authorizations are required during this period to file an application immediately to amend their authorization to reflect any changes to the information contained in the original application.
Traditionally, there has been only minimal competitive entry by telephone companies into Ohio’s video programming market, in part because local franchise requirements may present barriers to entry. It is believed that issuing statewide authorizations will expedite the deployment of a state-of-the-art infrastructure for delivering video and broadband services to Ohioans, some of whom have not had access to high-speed data services. Additionally, the law will bring new competitors to cable and satellite video providers.
The law gives the Department of Commerce authority to investigate any alleged violation of or failure to comply with certain provisions of the law. However, the Department does not have any authority to regulate the rates, terms or conditions of a provider’s service – including the networks or television stations that the video-services company decides to carry.
All cable television companies with state-issued video-service authorization are required to comply with the following customer service standards:
- The provider will restore video service within 72 hours after the customer reports a service interruption or other problem, if the cause was not a natural disaster.
- The customer will receive a credit to his or her bill if the customer reported a service interruption and that disruption was caused by the provider and lasted more than four hours in a given day. The provider will give the customer a credit in the amount of each day’s video service as would be billed to the customer.
- The customer will receive a credit to his or her bill if the customer reported a service interruption, and that disruption was not caused by the provider and it lasted more than 24 consecutive hours. For each hour of service interruptions, the provider will give the customer a credit in the amount of the cost per hour video service as would be billed to the customer.
Notices to customers
- Removing a channel – The provider will give a customer at least 30 days’ advance, written notice before removing a channel from the provider’s video service. The company is not required to provide notice if the channel is removed due to circumstances beyond the provider’s control.
- Disconnection – The provider will give a customer at least 10 days advance, written notice of a disconnection of all or part of the customer’s video service. The provider does not need to comply with this regulation if the disconnection has been requested by the customer, is necessary to prevent theft of video service, or is necessary to reduce or prevent signal leakage as described in state law.
- Past due bills – The provider will not disconnect all or part of a customer’s video service for failure of the customer to pay his or her video service bill until the bill is at least 45 days past due.
- Rate increase – The provider will give a customer at least 30 days advance, written notice before instituting an increase in video-service rates.
Prohibition against discrimination
No video service provider will deny access to video service to any group of potential residential customers in its video service area because of the race or income of the residents in the local area in which the group resides.
How to file a complaint
Consumers with a complaint against a video-service provider can file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Video Service Section. Before contacting the Section, you should contact your video-service provider to give the company an opportunity to resolve the dispute directly.
There are four ways to contact the Video Service Section with a complaint:
- Call (800) 686-7826 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Call Center will answer your call and pass the information along to Department of Commerce representatives.
- Fax your complaint to (614) 644-1469.
- Mail your completed complaint form (download complaint form) to:
Ohio Department of Commerce
Attn: Video Service Section
77 South High Street, 23rd Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
- E-mail a written description of your complaint to VSA@com.state.oh.us.
Please keep in mind that the information you provide is considered public information. You should be aware that, subject to certain statutory exceptions, most documents and records maintained by the Department of Commerce, PUCO and the state of Ohio, including but not limited to electronic data, are public records under Ohio law.
For additional information, visit the Department of Commerce website www.com.ohio.gov/admn/vsa.