What are Cable Advisory Councils?

Cable advisory councils are governmental agencies established under state statutes and charged as consumer advocates on behalf of the cable subscribers in each of the state's twenty-four cable franchise areas. Their composition and functions are governed by a number of statutes and regulations. Each council consists of one representative appointed by the cable company, one appointed by the library board of the largest town in the franchise area, one appointed by each board of education in the franchise area and from one to four residents appointed by the chief elected official of each town in the franchise area, the number being determined by town population. The members are appointed for a two-year term and serve without compensation. Except for the cable company representative, each has one vote. Advisory councils are required to meet bi-monthly and file an annual financial report with the DPUC (Department of Public Utility Control).

A multitude of statutes and regulations outline the rather complex tripartite relationship that links the advisory council to its cable company and the DPUC, which regulates the sale and distribution of cable television services. They require that the DPUC:
  • consult with the council before granting, renewing or transferring a cable franchise;
  • grant the council intervener status in any contested matter involving the company;
  • participate with the council in developing a community needs assessment;
  • consider the recommendation of the council in establishing the annual per-subscriber contribution for community access support and before designating a community access provider;
  • in establishing the length of a franchise term, consider the company's effectiveness in dealing with the council;
  • order an independent audit of a community access provider at the request of the council and upon the showing of good cause;
  • hold a hearing on the petition of a council concerning the ability of a community access provider to continue its operations or regarding the failure of a cable company to provide adequate service.
Likewise they require that the cable company:
  • meet with the council at least twice a year and contribute to it annually not less than $2,000.00; provide the council with copies of DPUC filings and advance notice of proposed programming and rate changes;
  • participate with the council in developing a community needs assessment;
  • semiannually provide its subscribers with information concerning the council and notice of its meetings;
  • annually review its community access rules and policies in consultation with the council;
  • respond to issues raised by the council within five business days;
  • annually provide the council with a description of all service offerings and charges;
  • file with the council a copy of its billing practices and give notice of any changes;
  • give the council notice of hearings related to the renewal, extension or transfer of the franchise;
  • give written notice to the chairman of the council of programming or rate changes and a written
  • explanation of such changes, which must be implemented in less than thirty days;
  • annually solicit a recommendation from the council as to personnel needed to facilitate meaningful
  • community access and comments concerning the effectiveness of its community access program;
  • consult with the council with regard to community access promotional efforts; and
  • establish specific community access goals in consultation with the council.