Md. County OKs Cable-Modem ‘Bill of Rights’

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Officials in Montgomery County, Md., have approved a “customer bill of rights” for cable-modem users that mirrors the policy the regulators utilize to protect local video customers.

The rules were approved Tuesday by a 6-3 vote of the council, noting that only billing disputes prompted more complaint calls to the county’s Office of Cable and Communications Services last year.

The service rules only apply to Internet providers for which the county has regulatory oversight. That includes Comcast Corp. and overbuilder Starpower Communications LLC, but not digital subscriber line or satellite-delivered data services.

The policy has been under consideration since last year, and Comcast had a chance to lobby for changes before this week’s vote. For instance the operator successfully argued against outage rebates of 10% of a consumer’s bill for each 24-hour outage, which would have amounted to about $5. Instead, the rebates are a prorated portion of the bill, which will be about $1.66 per day.

Officials had wanted standards on minimum speeds in the policy, but they were advised by attorneys that their authority over the product was questionable, given ongoing proceedings to define whether cable modems are a cable or information service.

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