Policy

Calif. Ops Wrestle with Disconnect Bill

4/14/2005 8:38 AM Eastern

When a customer disconnects cable service, it will be the responsibility of the cable operator to roll a truck or provide a prepaid mailer for the return of equipment, according to the terms of a bill pending in the California Assembly.

The proposal, introduced by Assembly Majority Whip Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), would also give the state’s Public Utilities Commission authority to determine “just and reasonable charges” for service disconnection.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled April 18, and cable operators are working with the author to amend the bill “so we can find a way to be neutral,” California Cable Telecommunications Association president Dennis Mangers said.

As written, the bill would give a cable operator seven days from the date a consumer disconnects to schedule an equipment pickup. If the technician doesn’t show up at the mutually agreed-upon time, the operator will have to credit the consumer the amount of one month’s basic-cable service.

Consumers may still return their own equipment, but the responsibility for collecting hardware will fall primarily on the shoulders of video providers.

Most operators currently require that the consumer bring in all rental equipment, so this would add new costs to disconnects. Mangers wouldn’t speculate on the cost of the bill at this point.

The attention of operators remains most focused on another bill in the Assembly, sponsored by Verizon Communications and designed to alter the definition of “level-playing-field” standards for video competitors in the state.

The industry has sent a list of amendments to the author of the bill, stressing the need to retain franchising and equal franchise-fee payments by each video provider, regardless of platform. The amendments would also prevent cities from offering more beneficial franchise terms to later competitors to the market.

If the author, Assemblyman Hector de la Torre (D-South Gate), amends the bill, that language will be debated in a committee hearing April 25.

March