October 30, 2006
MANDATING CABLE TV RATE DISCOUNTS FOR SENIORS
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked whether any state or federal agency can require cable TV companies to provide rate discounts to fixed income seniors.
No. Federal law requires state and federal agencies to regulate cable TV rates in accordance with the federal Cable Act (47 U.S.C. § 521 et seq.). This law only allows state cable franchising authorities such as the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control to regulate rates for basic service (the broadcast stations and public access channels). Moreover, franchising authorities can only regulate rates for this service in accordance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. These regulations do not allow franchising authorities to mandate rate discounts for seniors.
The Cable Act initially gave the FCC the authority to reduce rates for other service tiers (packages of channels such as CNN, ESPN, etc.) if it found that the rates were unreasonable. But this authority expired in March 1999.
According to the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, several Connecticut cable companies voluntarily provide a discount for low-income seniors. For example, Cox Communications offers a 15% discount from the basic service rate for its Enfield franchise customers who meet ConnPACE eligibility requirements.