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NATOA to FCC (and NCTA): Text Notifications Don't Cut it

Local franchising officials don't want the FCC to cut cable operators some new tech slack when it comes to how they send mandatory FCC notifications to customers about service and rate changes.

The FCC is considering whether to allow notifications by electronic means other than e-mails, like texts or app-based notifications or via the TV. It has concluded that notice must not simply be any method "reasonably calculate" to reach subs.

The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) told the FCC in comments this week that "While it may be the case, as NCTA -the Internet & Television Association asserts, that cable operators currently send 'millions of texts each month to their customers on a wide variety of matters,' this does not support the idea that mandatory written notices should be one of those texts."

NATOA has issues with notifications that can't be easily printed out and saved, it said.

NCTA told the FCC, by contrast, that "regulations should not freeze cable operators into modes of communication with their subscribers that can and do become outdated over time." It says the FCC should allow newer forms of notifications, like "push" alerts to app users.

NATOA counters that some subs may not want to have to download the app or allow for push notifications to get their FCC-mandated notifications. It also got in a dig at usage-based plans in telling the FCC why texting was insufficient notice. "[S]ubscribers may have data caps that impair their ability to receive and access notices on their smartphones without facing additional charges," it told the FCC.

NATOA said it does not object to an opt-in regime for such alternative methods, recognizing that some subs may prefer them. But it said the choice should be the sub's, not the cable provider.

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.