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130. Rate Cases

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130.1 Definitions.

BASIC CABLE RATES means rates charged for the basic service tier and the associated equipment.

BASIC SERVICE TIER means subscription to the basic service tier to which subscription is required for access to any other tier of service, including as a minimum, but not limited to, all must-carry signals, all PEG channels, and all domestic television signals other than superstations.

BENCHMARK or reasonable rate standard means a per channel rate of charge for cable service and associated equipment which the FCC has determined is reasonable.

CABLE ACT OF 1992 means the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992.

CABLE OPERATOR means any person or group of persons:

  1. who provide cable service over a cable system and directly or through one or more affiliates owns a significant interest in such a cable system; or
  2. who otherwise controls or is responsible for, through any arrangement, the management and operation of such a cable system.

CHANNEL means a unit of cable service identified and selected by a channel number or similar designation.

COST OF SERVICE SHOWING means a filing in which the cable operator attempts to show that the benchmark or reasonable rate standard rate or the price cap is not sufficient to allow the cable operator to fully recover the costs of providing the basic service tier and to continue to attract capital.

FCC means the Federal Communications Commission.

INITIAL BASIC CABLE RATES means the rates that the cable operator is charging for the basic service tier, including charges for associated equipment, at the time the City notifies the cable operator of the City's qualification and intent to regulate basic cable rates.

MUST-CARRY SIGNAL means the signal of any local broadcast station (except superstations) which is required to be carried on the basic service tier.

PEG CHANNEL means the channel capacity designated for public, educational, or governmental use, and facilities and equipment for the use of that channel capacity.

PRICE CAP means the ceiling set by the FCC on future increases in basic cable rates regulated by the City, based on a formula using the GNP fixed weight price index, reflecting general increases in the cost of doing business and changes in overall inflation.

REASONABLE RATE STANDARD means a per channel rate that is at, or below, the benchmark or reasonable rate standard or price cap level.

SUPERSTATION means any non-local broadcast signal secondarily transmitted by satellite.

130.2 Initial Review of Basic Cable Rates.

  1. Notice. The City shall notify all cable operators in the City, by certified mail, return receipt requested, that the City intends to regulate subscriber rates charged for the basic service tier and associated equipment as authorized by the Cable Act of 1992.
  2. Cable operator response. Within thirty (30) days of receiving notice from the City, a cable operator shall file with the Legal Department, its current rates for the basic service tier and associated equipment and any supporting material concerning the reasonableness of its rates. The Legal Department shall forward that response to the Board, with appropriate analysis as soon as practicable. The Board shall consider such response as more fully set out below.
  3. Expedited determination and public hearing.
    1. If the Board is able to expeditiously determine that the cable operator's rates for the basic service tier and associated equipment are within the FCC's reasonable rate standard, as determined by the applicable benchmark or reasonable rate standard, the Board shall:
      1. hold a public hearing at which interested persons may express their views; and
      2. act to approve the rates within thirty (30) days from the date the cable operator filed its basic cable rates with the City
    2. If the Board takes no action within thirty (30) days from the date the cable operator filed its basic cable rates with the Legal Department, the proposed rates will continue in effect.
  4. Extended review period.
    1. If the Board is unable to determine whether the rates at issue are within the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard based on the material before it, or if the cable operator submits a cost-of-service showing, the Board shall, within thirty (30) days from the date the cable operator filed its basic cable rates with the City and by written order, invoke the following additional periods of time, as applicable, to make a final determination:
      1. Ninety (90) days if the Board needs more time to ensure that a rate is within the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard; or
      2. One hundred fifty (150) days if the cable operator has submitted a cost-of-service showing seeking to justify a rate or rate increase above the applicable benchmark or reasonable rate standard.
    2. If the Board has not made a decision within the ninety (90) or one hundred fifty (150) day period, the cable operator is authorized to institute the proposed rate and the Board shall issue a brief written order at the end of the period requesting the cable operator to keep accurate account of all amounts received by reason of the proposed rate and on whose behalf the amounts are paid.
  5. Public hearing. During the extended review period and before taking action on the proposed rate, the Board shall hold at least one (1) public hearing at which interested persons may express their views and record objections.
  6. Objections. An interested person who wishes to make an objection to the proposed initial basic rate may request the Legal Department to record the objection during the public hearing or may submit the objection in writing any time before a recommended decision is adopted. In order for an objection to be made part of the record, the objector must provide the Legal Department with the objector's name and address.
  7. Initial Basic Cable Rate. If a cable operator submits its current basic cable rate schedule as being in compliance with the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard, the Board shall review the rates using the benchmark or reasonable rate standard analysis in accordance with the standard form authorized by the FCC. Based on the Board's findings, the initial basic cable rates shall be established in conformance with federal regulations:
    1. If the current basic cable rates are below the benchmark or reasonable rate standard, those rates shall become the initial basic cable rates and the cable operator's rates will be capped at that level.
    2. If the current basic cable rates exceed the benchmark or reasonable rate standard, the rates shall be the greater of the cable operator's per channel rate on September 30, 1992, reduced by ten percent (10%), or the applicable benchmark or reasonable rate standard, adjusted for inflation and any change in the number of channels occurring between September 30, 1992 and the initial date of regulation.
    3. If the current basic cable rates exceed the benchmark or reasonable rate standard, but the cable operator's per channel rate was below the benchmark or reasonable rate standard on September 30, 1992, the initial basic cable rate shall be the benchmark or reasonable rate standard, adjusted for inflation.
  8. Cost-of-service showings. If a cable operator does not wish to reduce the rates to the permitted level, the cable operator shall have the opportunity to submit a cost-of-service showing in an attempt to justify an initial basic cable rate above the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard. The Board will review a cost-of-service submission pursuant to FCC standards for cost-of-service review. The Board may approve initial basic cable rates above the benchmark or reasonable rate standard if the cable operator makes the necessary showing; however, a cost-of-service determination resulting in rates below the benchmark or reasonable rate standard or below the cable operator's September 30, 1 992 rates minus ten percent (10%), will prescribe the cable operator's new rates.
  9. Decision.
    1. Recommended Decision. After completion of its review of the cable operator's proposed rates, the Board shall prepare and ultimately adopt a recommended decision. The decision shall include one of the following:
      1. If the proposal is within the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard or is justified by a cost-of-service analysis, the Board shall approve the initial basic cable rates proposed by the cable operator; or
      2. If the proposal is not within the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard or the cost-of-service analysis, does not justify the proposed rates, the Board shall establish initial basic cable rates that are within the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard or that are justified by the cost-of-service analysis.
    2. Rollbacks and refunds. If the Board determines that the initial basic cable rates as submitted exceed the benchmark or reasonable rate standard or that the cable operator's cost-of-service showing justifies lower rates, the Board may recommend that the rates be reduced in accordance with Paragraph (g) or (h) above, as applicable. In addition, the Board may recommend the cable operator to pay to subscribers, refunds of the excessive portion of the rates with interest (computed at applicable rates published by the Internal Revenue Service for tax refunds and additional tax payments), retroactive to September 1, 1993. The method for paying any refund and the interest rate will be in accordance with FCC regulations as directed in the Board's recommended decision.
    3. Statement of reasons for decision and public notice. If rates proposed by a cable operator are disapproved in whole or in part, or if there were objections made by other parties to the proposed rates, the recommended decision must state the reasons for the decision and the Board must give public notice of its decision. Public notice will be given by advertisement once in a newspaper of general circulation.

130.3 Review of Request for Increase In Basic Cable Rates.

  1. Notice. A cable operator in the city who wishes to increase the rates for the basic service tier or associated equipment shall file a request with the city and notify all subscribers at least thirty (30) days before the cable operator desires the increase to take effect. This notice may not be given more often than annually and not until at least one (I) year after the determination of the initial basic cable rates.
  2. Expedited determination and public hearing.
    1. If the Board is able to expeditiously determine that the cable operator's rate increase request for basic cable service is within the FCC'S benchmark or reasonable rate standard, as determined by the applicable price cap, the Board shall: (i) hold a public hearing at which interested persons may express their views; and (ii) act to approve the rate increase within thirty (30) days from the date the cable operator filed its request with the city.
    2. If the Board takes no action within thirty (30) days from the date the cable operator filed its request with the city, the proposed rates will go into effect.
  3. Extended review period.
    1. If the Board is unable to determine whether the rate increase is within the FCC'S benchmark or reasonable rate standard based on the material before it, or if the cable operator submits a cost-of-service showing the Board shall, by adoption of a formal resolution, invoke the following additional periods of time, as applicable, to make a final determination
      1. Ninety (90) days if the Board needs more time to ensure that the requested increase is within the FCC'S benchmark or reasonable rate standard as determined by the applicable benchmark; and one hundred fifty (150) days if the cable operator has submitted a cost-of-service showing seeking to justify a rate increase above the applicable benchmark,
    2. The proposed rate increase is tolled during the extended review period.
    3. If the Board has not made a decision within the ninety (90) or one hundred fifty (150) day period, the Board shall issue a brief written order at the end of the period requesting the cable operator to keep accurate account of all amounts received by reason of the proposed rate increase and on whose behalf the amounts are paid.
  4. Public hearing. During the extended review period and before taking action on the requested rate increase, the Board shall hold at least one (1) public hearing at which interested persons may express their views and record objections.
  5. Objections. An interested person who wishes to make an objection to the proposed rate increase may request the city secretary to record the objection during the public hearing or may submit the objection in writing anytime before the decision resolution is adopted. In order for an objection to be made part of the record, the objector must provide the city secretary with the objector's name and address.
  6. Delayed determination, If the Board is unable to make a final determination concerning a requested rate increase within the extended time period, the cable operator may put the increase into effect, subject to subsequent refund if the Board later issues a decision disapproving any portion of the increase.
  7. Benchmark or reasonable rate standard analysis. If a cable operator presents its request for a rate increase as being in compliance with the FCC's benchmark or reasonable rate standard, the Board shall review the rate using the benchmark or reasonable rate standard analysis in accordance with the standard form or forms authorized by the FCC. Based on the Board's findings, the basic cable rates shall be established as follows:
    1. If the proposed basic cable rate increase is within the benchmark or reasonable rate standard established by the FCC, the proposed rates shall become the new basic cable rates.
    2. If the proposed basic cable rate increase exceeds the benchmark or reasonable rate standard established by the FCC, the Board shall disapprove the proposed rate increase and order an increase that is in compliance with the benchmark of reasonable rate standard.
  8. Cost-of-service showings. If a cable operator submits a cost-of-service showing in an attempt to justify a rate increase above either the benchmark or reasonable rate standard, the Board will review the submission pursuant the FCC standards for cost-of-service review. The Board may approve a rate increase above the benchmark or reasonable rate standard if the cable operator makes the necessary showing; however, a cost-of-service determination resulting in a rate below the benchmark or reasonable rate standard or below the cable operator's then current rate will prescribe the cable operator's new rate.
  9. Decision. The Board's decision concerning the requested rate increase, shall be adopted by formal resolution. If a rate increase proposed by a cable operator is disapproved in whole or in part, or if objections were made by other parties to the proposed rate increase, the resolution must state the reasons for the decision. Objections may be made at the public hearing by a person requesting the city secretary to record the objection or may be submitted in writing at anytime before the decision resolution is adopted.
  10. Refunds. The Board may order refunds of subscribers' rate payments with interest if
    1. the Board was unable to make a decision within the extended time period as described in Paragraph (c) above; and the cable operator implemented the rate increase at the end of the extended review period; and the Board determines that the rate increase as submitted exceeds the applicable benchmark or reasonable rate standard or that the cable operator failed to justify the rate increase by a cost-of-service showing, and the Board disapproves any portion of the rate increase.
    2. The method for paying any refund and the interest rate will be in accordance with FCC regulations as directed in the Board's decision resolution.

130.4 Automatic Rate Adjustments.

  1. Annual inflation adjustment. In accordance with FCC regulations, the cable operator may adjust its benchmark or reasonable rate standard per channel rate for the basic service tier annually by the final GNP-PI index,
  2. Other external costs. The FCC regulations also allow the cable operator to increase its rate for the basic service tier automatically to reflect certain external cost factors to the extent that the increase in cost of those factors exceeds the GNP-PI. These factors include retransmission consent fees, programming costs, state and local taxes applicable to the provision of cable television service, and costs of franchise requirements. The total cost of an increase in a franchise fee may be automatically added to the base per channel rate, without regard to its relation to the GNP-PI.
    1. For all categories of external costs other than retransmission consent and franchise fees, the starting date for measuring changes in external costs for which the basic service per channel rate may be adjusted will be the date on which the basic service tier becomes subject to regulation or February 28, 1994, whichever occurs first. The permitted per channel charge may not be adjusted for costs of retransmission consent fees or changes in those fees incurred before October 6, 1994.
  3. Notification and review. The cable operator shall notify the city at least thirty (30) days in advance of a rate increase based on automatic adjustment items. The city shall review the increase to determine whether the item or items qua1ify as automatic adjustments. If the city makes no objection within thirty (30) days of receiving notice of the increase, the increase may go into effect.

130.5 Time Considerations.

  1. In cases not involving cost-of-service showings, the Board shall have no more than sixty (60) days after submission of a cable operator's existing or proposed rates to consider such proposal, take any necessary additional information, hear comments, and forward its findings and written recommended decision to the Mayor. The Board shall have no more than one hundred twenty (120) days in cases involving cost-of-service showings.
  2. The Mayor shall in turn submit such findings and recommended decision to the Council along with the Mayor's recommendation within fifteen (15) days of receipt of the same from the Mayor.
  3. The Council shall consider such findings, and recommendations within forty-five (45) days of receipt of the same from the Mayor. The City Council may restrict its consideration to the record received, or it may elect to accept additional testimony so long as such testimony is made a part of the record for purposes of an appeal. The Council shall adopt its written decision within the allotted time constraints required by the FCC regulations. For purposes of appeal to the FCC of the decision of the franchising authority, the date of the final Council action shall control.

130.6 Appeal.

The City Council decision concerning rates for the basic service tier or associated equipment, may be appealed to the FCC in accordance with applicable federal regulations.

130.7 Enforcement.

  1. Refunds. The city may order the cable operator to refund to subscribers a portion of previously paid rates under the following circumstances:
    1. A portion of the previously paid rates have been determined to be in excess of the permitted tier charge or above the actual cost of equipment; or
    2. The cable operator has failed to comply with a valid rate order issued by the city.
  2. Fines. If the cable operator fails to comply with a rate decision or refund order, the cable operator shall be subject to a fine of five hundred dollars ($500) for each day the cable operator fails to comply.
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