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FCC adopts customer service standards for operators.

The Federal Communications Commission has adopted rules on customer service standards for cable television operators. The 1992 Cable Act requires the FCC to adopt national minimum customer service standards on matters relating to cable system office hours, telephone availability, installations, outages, service calls and communications between the cable operator and subscriber, including billing and refund policies.

During the FCC's March 11 meeting when the rules were adopted, only a press release was issued describing in general terms what the rules will say. Until the actual Report and Order is issued, which may be several days or weeks, the details are not clear.

According to the FCC press release, it appears that customer service standards adopted by the FCC include the following:

* the FCC's standards (which are based on those of the National Cable Television Association) have been tightened somewhat and made more specific than in the FCC's initial proposal;

* although these standards have been developed by the FCC, they are enforced by local franchising authorities, not by the FCC. They do not go into effect until a franchising authority adopts them--the FCC rejected proposals that standards automatically apply nationwide--instead each community has to adopt them, one by one.

* the FCC's standards do not prevent franchising authorities from adopting different or stricter standards. This is because the FCC standards in effect are minimum national standards and the intent of the 1992 Cable Act is to allow communities to adopt stricter standards based upon their specific needs and problems they have experienced. Many communities already have customer standards in place that are stricter or more detailed than the FCC' s, and will remain in effect.

* it is unclear what (ff anything) the rule will say regarding the sanctions or enforcement mechanisms a franchising authority can impose for standards that are not complied with.

These rules released by the FCC regarding customer service standards are final. During the comment and reply phases of this rulemaking process, which took place over the past six months, the National Association of Telecommunications Ofricers and Advisors, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties cooperated to file extensive comments on behalf. of local governments.

If you wish additional information, please contact NATO Administrative Officer Rene Winsky in the NLC Center for Member Programs at (202) 626-3160.
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Title Annotation:Federal Communications Commission
Author:Winsky, Rene M.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 29, 1993
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