Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Cable Industry Pricing Report, FCC Commissioner Statement on Stay at Home Orders, FCC COVID-19 TCPA Declaratory Ruling
FCC Cable Industry Pricing Report
The FCC has directed certain cable operators to respond to a price survey questionnaire designed to solicit information concerning rates for basic service, cable programming service, and equipment used to receive such services. The information will be used for its statutorily required report on cable industry prices. The cable operators selected for the sample must complete and file the questionnaire no later than May 15, 2020. The survey requests information on the monthly price of basic service, expanded basic service, and the next most popular service as of two dates: January 1, 2019, and January 1, 2020. In addition, the survey requests information on the monthly charge for equipment, the number of subscribers, and the number and types of channels offered. The FCC said that it lowered the burden on respondents by removing the requirement to fill out a full channel lineup due to changing requirements for the survey and also updated its sampling methodology to reduce the number of communities surveyed.
The survey sample includes a random sample of cable operators in various communities nationwide. A completed questionnaire is required for each community selected in our sample. If more than one community is selected from any cable system, the cable operator must complete a separate questionnaire for each community unit identification (CUID) number selected.
FCC Commissioner Statement on Stay at Home Orders
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks issued the following statement regarding state and local “stay at home” orders: “In support of their public health efforts, states are implementing increasingly strict orders to stop non-essential business and keep residents at home. Both California and New York have, consistent with the guidance of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, identified telecommunications as essential infrastructure that must be supported even as other activities are restricted. I encourage all state and local officials to adopt this approach. Around the country, dedicated teams are working under challenging circumstances to expand access to communications networks. That critical work must continue as long as it can be done safely. For the tens of millions of Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide, gaining access to school, work, and medical care in this difficult time depends on those efforts.”
FCC COVID-19 TCPA Declaratory Ruling
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC issued a ruling confirming that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an “emergency” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and that consequently hospitals, health care providers, state and local health officials, and other government officials may lawfully communicate information about the novel coronavirus as well as mitigation measures without violating federal law. The FCC emphasized that the content of the call must be solely informational, made necessary because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and directly related to the imminent health or safety risk arising out of the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, calls that contain advertising or telemarketing of services do not constitute calls made for an “emergency purpose” (e.g., advertising a commercial grocery delivery service, or selling or promoting health insurance, cleaning services, or home test kits). Calls made to collect debt, even if such debt arises from related health care treatment, are not made for an “emergency purpose,” as those calls are not time-sensitive, do not “affect the health and safety of consumers,” and are not directly related to an imminent health or safety risk. Such debt collection, advertising, or telemarketing automated calls require the prior express consent of the called party.
The FCC noted that it is aware that some consumers have already received telemarketing and fraudulent robocalls related to the pandemic, such as calls or text messages offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, and preying on virus-related fears. The FCC said it will be vigilant in monitoring complaints about these calls and will not hesitate to enforce its rules when appropriate.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.