Citing the pandemic and MVPD's crucial role, the FCC has decided to extend the deadline for MVPD compliance with new truth-in-billing regs mandated by Congress.
Cable operators--NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and ACA Connects--had sought an emergency extension, also citing COVID-19, though some prominent Hill Democrats were calling for enforcement on schedule Friday (April 3) at about the same time the FCC's Media Bureau was explaining the extension.
A source familiar with those Democrats' thinking said that they assumed the delay is because of the coronavirus emergency and are hopeful the companies and the FCC will implement it as soon as possible.
"As the nation tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service are among the entities that are integral to the Commission’s ongoing, nationwide effort to keep Americans informed and connected
during this national emergency," said Media Bureau chief Michelle Carey. "So that these service providers may focus their resources on this critical effort, we provide appropriate flexibility for MVPDs and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service to fulfill their obligations under the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA). Specifically, by this Order, we exercise our discretion under the TVPA to grant a blanket extension until December 20, 2020, of the effective date of new truth-in-billing requirements.
The mandate requires cable and satellite providers to disclose all fees before potential subs sign on the dotted line and allow for a 24-hour grace period for cancellations without penalty. The TVPA also requires more transparency in electronic billing and prohibits MVPDs from charging for equipment they don't provide. It was supposed to go into effect June 20, six months after the law's passage as the legislation specified.
But saying its members need to focus their time and energies on fighting the pandemic and shouldering the additional broadband load of a surf-in-place populace, NCTA and ACA Connects told the FCC they would like the mandate date extended to Dec. 20. Actually, the FCC asked in a request for comment on whether it should extend it to that date and NCTA said yes, then added an exclamation mark with the virus-related request for an emergency extension.
“ACA Connects welcomes the FCC Media Bureau’s decision today to extend by six months the deadline for compliance with new truth-in-billing requirements for MVPDs and broadband providers enacted last year as part of the Television Viewer Protection Act," said ACA Connects president Matt Polka. “As ACA Connects explained in a joint filing with NCTA and USTelecom, our members would have been hard-pressed to obtain necessary software upgrades from their billing vendors in time to meet the original June deadline, even in the absence of COVID-19.
“We applaud the FCC for extending the compliance date of the Television Viewer Protection Act," said NCTA in a statement. "The Commission’s timely action will enable cable operators to focus on critical tasks to ensure that Americans remain connected during this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.”
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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