Washington -- The Federal Communications Commission
released an order last Tuesday requiring Cablevision Systems Corp. to make $1.2 million in
refunds to 300,000 subscribers, settling rate complaints that date as far back as Sept. 1,
"I believe that this settlement, like the others, is a
fair way to address many of the over 17,000 complaints that the commission has received
since Congress imposed rate regulation on cable operators in 1992," said FCC chairman
William Kennard, in a prepared statement.
A Cablevision spokesman said the FCC release "puts
pending rate settlements behind us and provides the company with certainty regarding rates
Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth issued a dissent,
saying that he did not believe that the FCC had the legal authority to negotiate a
"global settlement" with a cable operator.
In a prepared statement, he said the FCC is required to
adopt regulations after notice and comments that establish procedures for reaching broad
settlements with MSOs. He added the people who complained about Cablevision's rates
got "the short end of this regulatory stick" by being excluded from the
"The simple fact, however, is that there are no
commission regulations that even arguably provide procedures for a negotiated settlement
such as this," Furchtgott-Roth said.
Furchtgott-Roth said in closing that broad rate settlements
were "the sorry and inevitable byproduct of rate regulation itself."
He added that he was looking forward to March 31, 1999,
when FCC price caps on expanded-basic rates sunset and the commission will be "free
of the administrative and regulatory demons that haunt" the Cablevision settlement.
The Cablevision settlement involved 60 communities in nine
states. The MSO may refund subscribers in the form of bill credits, the FCC said.
Kennard retorted that the 1992 Cable Act did not restrict
the FCC from calculating rates for "a group or a class" and ordering refunds.
Since 1993, the FCC said, it has ordered $86.5 million in cable-operator refunds.