NOTE:The questions and answers below are general ones.The Department of the Secretary of State offers these answers in an effort to assist the public. HOWEVER, it should be noted that the Department of the Secretary of State has limited legal authority with regard to the questions.Therefore, our answers are not binding on any cable service company.

Questions

1.If I am having trouble with my cable company, who do I contact?

2. Why can’t the Department of the Secretary of State help me resolve my cable service complaint?

3. If I have questions about my rights as a consumer under federal law regarding cable service, who should I contact?

4. Who has to have a State cable franchise?

5. What is the purpose of the new State Cable Franchise law?

6. Who issues State cable franchises?

7. What is the Secretary of State’s role with regard to cable franchises?

8. So, what does “filed with the Department of the Secretary of State” mean?

9. Can a Notice of Franchise be denied or rejected by the Department of the Secretary of State?

10. What does it mean when they say a cable service provider has “passed” a household?

11. When does a company that has a State Franchise have to provide cable service?

12. If a local franchise expired before December 31, 2006, does the cable company have to get a State franchise?

13. If a local franchise expires after January 1, 2007,does the cable company have to get a State franchise?

14. If a current local franchise does not expire any time soon, can the cable company terminate the local franchise and get a State franchise?

15. How does someone find out if a State Franchise holder has passed a household in the service area?

16. Who has to file a Notice of Commencement of Service?

17. Does the Department of the Secretary of State take any action if a Notice of Commencement of Service is not filed by a State Franchise holder?

18. Does a State Franchise ever end?

19. Who will negotiate the terms of cable service franchise agreements?

20. What if I can't download or view the map linked to the filing on the Cable Franchise Index webpage?Answers



1.
If I am having trouble with my cable company, who do I contact?

It's NOT us - (the Department of the Secretary of State):

If you have a complaint about your cable television service, first contact your cable television operator.

If your cable operator is not able to resolve your complaint and your monthly bill lists a local government (city, county or town) address and phone number, then call that number. (If your bill lists a local government, your cable service is provided under a Local Franchise Agreement and not a State franchise.)

If your cable operator is not able to resolve your complaint and your monthly bill contains information regarding the NC Department of Justice, then contact the NC Department of Justice. The NC Department of Justice is also called the NC Attorney General's Office.You may also contact the Department of Justice at:http://www.ncdoj.com. (If your bill lists the Department of Justice, your cable service is provided under a State Franchise and not a Local Franchise Agreement.) An additional resource is the NC State Government website:http://www.ncgov.com.

EXPLANATION OF REASON WE CANNOT HELP YOU WITH A CUSTOMER SERVICE QUESTION:

The Department of the Secretary of State does not have the authority to intervene on your behalf and consequently cannot help you with a problem related to your cable television service. North Carolinalaw expressly designates the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office as the agency to receive and respond to unresolved customer complaints about cable service provided by the holder of a State issued franchise. If you call the Department of the Secretary of State, we cannot answer your questions regarding customer service.If you call the Department of the Secretary of State, we will refer you to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office.


2.
Why can’t the Department of the Secretary of State help me resolve my cable service complaint?

North Carolina law expressly designates the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office as the agency to receive and respond to unresolved customer complaints about cable service provided by the holder of a State-issued franchise.The Department of the Secretary of State does not have the authority to intervene on your behalf and consequently cannot help you with a problem related to your cable television service. If you call the Department of the Secretary of State, we cannot answer your questions regarding customer service.If you call the Department of the Secretary of State, we will refer you to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office.


3.
If I have questions about my rights as a consumer under federal law regarding cable service, who should I contact?

Contact the Federal Communications Commission at www.fcc.gov The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office may also be able to help you.


4.
Who has to have a State cable franchise?

Anyone who provides cable service over a cable system in North Carolina and who does not have a local franchise is required to have a State cable franchise.


5.
What is the purpose of the new State Cable Franchise law?

The purpose of the State Franchise for Cable Television Service law is “to promote consumer choice in video service providers. A premise of this goal is that increased competition will lead to improved service.Under competition, a customer who is dissatisfied with service by one cable service provider will have the option of choosing a different service provider.” Link To House Bill 2047


6.
Who issues State cable franchises?

Technically, no one “issues” a State Franchise. Instead, the law provides that when a Notice of Franchise is filed with the Department of the Secretary of State, the filer has been awarded a State Franchise.


7.
What is the Secretary of State’s role with regard to cable franchises?

The Department of the Secretary of State has the legal authority to develop forms; accept forms which cable providers submit; examine the forms to determine if they are complete and comply with certain minimum requirements; accept required fees; adopt necessary technical rules; and, post on the Department’s website either an index of filed documents or the documents themselves.The Secretary of State does not have any enforcement authority with regard to cable franchises.


8.
So, what does “filed” with the Department of the Secretary of State mean?

It means that:

A. A filer has submitted to the Department: a Notice of Franchise form, a paper map and an electronic map, and a filing fee, and the required number of copies of those documents; and

B. The Department of the Secretary of State has examined the filer’s submitted documents to determine whether it is complete, legible, accompanied by the required fee and copies; and

C. After determining that the filing is complete, the Department has filed the Notice of Franchise Form.

9. Can a Notice of Franchise be denied or rejected by the Department of the Secretary of State?

A Notice of Franchise can be rejected by the Department of the Secretary of State because it is incomplete or for other similar reasons.

A Notice of Franchise cannot be denied by the Department for reasons which would require the Department to look at the substance of the Notice of Franchise or the filer’s qualifications.For example, unlike state agencies which can deny a license because a filer hasn’t shown its financial stability, the Department does not have the authority to even look at such issues.

10. What does it mean when they say a cable service provider has “passed” a household?

It means that cable service has been made available to at least one household in the service area.It does not mean that anyone has actually received cable service.G.S. §66-350(5)


11.
When does a company that has a State Franchise have to provide cable service?

A company which is “awarded” a State Franchise has to “pass” at least one household in the service area within 120 days after the Notice of Franchise is filed with the Department of the Secretary of State. [See answer to question No. 10 to find out what “passing” a household means.]


12.
If a local franchise expired before December 31, 2006, does the cable company have to get a State franchise?

Yes.However, the Department of the Secretary of State has no legal authority to take action if a company does not obtain a State Franchise.A local franchise is in effect until it expires or is terminated.If a local franchise expired before December 31, 2006, the company may have continued to provide service (similarly to when an apartment lease expires and the renter stays in the apartment on a month to month lease).In order to continue providing cable service after January 1, 2007, the company will have to get a State franchise from the Secretary of State’s Office.The company does NOT have to terminate the old franchise because it no longer exists.[See G.S. §§66-352, 355(a)(3)]

13. If a local franchise expires after January 1, 2007, does the cable company have to get a State franchise?

face="Times New Roman" Yes. However, the Department of the Secretary of State has no legal authority to take action if a company does not obtain a State Franchise. [See G.S. §66-352]


14.
If a current local franchise does not expire any time soon, can the cable company terminate the local franchise and get a State franchise?

Yes, if certain conditions are met:

A. If more than one company has a local franchise for substantially the same service area and at least 25% of the households in the franchise service area are “passed” by more than one cable provider, then one or more of the companies can terminate the local franchise and get a State franchise. G.S. §66-352(1)(b) [See G.S.§ 66-355(a)(2)(b)]; or

B. If one or more households in the franchise area of the existing agreement are passed by both the cable service provider under the existing local franchise agreement and the holder of a State issued franchise [See G.S. §66-355(a)(2)(b)]; or

C. If a person provides wireline competition in the franchise area of the existing agreement by offering video programming over wireline facilities to single family households by a method that does not require a franchise under this Article.NOTE:the law includes additional requirements for this type of termination of a local franchise agreement. [See G.S.§ 66-355(a)(2)(c)]


15.
How does someone find out if a State Franchise holder has passed a household in the service area?

The Department of the Secretary of State cannot tell a consumer or a cable service provider whether a State Franchise holder has passed a household in a service area.Depending on the circumstances, a State Franchise holder may have to file a Notice of Commencement of Service with the Department of the Secretary of State.If a State Franchise holder is required to file a Notice of Commencement of Service with the Department, the Notice of Commencement of Service will be indicated on the index on the State Cable Franchise webpage.


16.
Who has to file a Notice of Commencement of Service?

face="Times New Roman" A Notice of Commencement of Service does not have to be filed by a cable service provider who terminates a local franchise agreement if the local franchise area includes all of the service area described in the Notice of Franchise filed with the Department of the Secretary of State.A Notice of Commencement of Service must be filed by all other State Franchise holders no later than 10 days after service begins.


17.
Does the Department of the Secretary of State take any action if a Notice of Commencement of Service is not filed by a State Franchise holder?

No.The Department of the Secretary of State does not have any legal authority to take any action if a Notice of Commencement of Service is not filed by a State Franchise holder. It should be noted that all State Franchise holders are not required to file a Notice of Commencement of Service.


18.
Does a State Franchise ever end?

The Department of the Secretary of State has no authority to end a State Franchise.However, North Carolina law does provide that a State Franchise is void 130 days after a Notice of Franchise is filed if service is not provided within 120 days of filing the Notice of Franchise. Holders of State Franchises who held local franchises and provided service after the franchise expired up to December 31, 2006 are not required to file Notices of Commencement of Service because they are already providing service. Any State Franchise holder can end a State Franchise by filing a Notice of Withdrawal with the Department of the Secretary of State at least 90 days before service will be withdrawn.


19.
Who will negotiate the terms of cable service franchise agreements?

No one.For local cable franchise agreements which were still in effect on January 1, 2007, a unit of local government negotiated and approved the cable franchise agreement.The Act has provisions which deal with existing cable service agreements. If you have questions about the terms of your local cable service agreements, look at your bill and call the local government number on your bill.

Under the new “State Franchise for Cable Television Service” Act, there is no negotiation involved in getting a State franchise. The Department of the Secretary of State does not have the authority to negotiate with cable service franchisees.When the Department accepts and files a Notice of Franchise from a cable service provider, the law says that:

“The Secretary is considered to have awarded a franchise to a person who files a notice of franchise under G.S. 66-352.”

The Act does set out some requirements with which holders of State cable service franchises must comply.However, the Department of the Secretary of State does not have the authority to accept complaints or to investigate whether a franchise holder is in compliance with those requirements. The Department does not have the authority to take action if someone informs the Department that a franchise holder is out of compliance. The NC Attorney General’s Office has authority to investigate customer service complaints.If the Department of the Secretary of State receives any complaints about compliance with the requirements of the Act, the Department will refer the complaints to the Attorney General’s Office.


20. What if I can't download or view the map linked to the filing on the Cable Franchise Index webpage?

It may be possible that the speed of your computer is prohibiting you from viewing the maps provided in the GIS “Shapefile” format.If this is the case, please do one of the following: 1) try viewing from another computer 2) Call and request a copy of the map at 919-807-2225 (all copying fees apply) and/or 3) visit the Secretary of State’s Office and view the map.