FCC Updates Requirements Relating to Charges by MVPDs

Effective December 20, 2020, all Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) will be required to comply with new consumer notice provisions under Section 642 of the Communications Act. MVPD services include cable television, MMDS, direct broadcast satellite, or television receive-only satellite programming that provide multiple channels of video programming.

A wireless internet service provider that offers a bundle of video programming would be subject to the notice requirement. However, a broadband provider (whether wired or wireless) that only offers access to apps or websites that offer video programming (Over the Top Programming) is not an MVPD and therefore is not subject to the notice requirements.

The services covered under these notice requirements include: (i) MVPD programming (cable programming) and (ii) a mass-market retail service by wire or radio that provides the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all internet endpoints (Broadband Internet Access Service). Together these are the Covered Services.

Beginning December 20, MVPDs will be required, before entering into a contract with a consumer for the provision of the Covered Services, to provide the consumer the total monthly charge for the Covered Services selected by the consumer (explicitly noting the amount of any applicable promotional discount reflected in such charge and when such discount will expire), including any related administrative fees, equipment fees, or other charges, a good faith estimate of any tax, fee, or charge imposed by a government and a good faith estimate of any fee or charge that is used to recover any other assessment imposed on the MVPD by a government.

No later than 24 hours after entering into the contract, the MVPD must send a copy of the above information to the consumer, by email, online link, or other reasonably comparable means. The customer will then have the right to cancel the contract, without paying early cancellation fees or other disconnection fees or penalties, during the 24-hour period beginning when the MVPD sends the required copy of information.

If the MVPD provides a bill to a consumer in an electronic format, it shall include in the bill:

1. an itemized statement that breaks down the total amount charged for or relating to the provision of the Covered Services by the amount charged for the provision of the service itself and the amount of all related taxes, administrative fees, equipment fees, or other charges;

2. the termination date of the contract for the covered service; and

3. the termination date of any applicable promotional discount.

In addition, the MVPD may not charge a consumer for:

1. using covered equipment provided by the consumer; or

2. renting, leasing, or otherwise providing to the consumer covered equipment if

(A) the provider has not provided the equipment to the consumer; or

(B) the consumer has returned the equipment to the provider, except to the extent that the charge relates to the period beginning on the date when the MVPD provided the equipment to the consumer and ending on the date when the consumer returned the equipment to the MVPD.

Please contact any attorney in our office if you need more information.