Article 42.

State Franchise for  Cable Television Service.

§ 66-350.  Definitions.

The following definitions apply in this Article:

(1)        Cable service. - Defined in G.S. 105-164.3.

(2)        Cable system. - Defined in 47 U.S.C. § 522.

(3)        Channel. - A portion of the electromagnetic frequency spectrum that is used in a cable system and is capable of delivering a television channel.

(4)        Existing agreement. - A local franchise agreement that was awarded under G.S. 153A-137 or G.S. 160A-319 and meets either of the following:

a.         Is in effect on January 1, 2007.

b.         Expired before January 1, 2007, and the cable service provider under the agreement provides cable service to subscribers in the franchise area on January 1, 2007.

(5)        Pass a household. - Make service available to a household, regardless of whether the household subscribes to the service.

(6)        PEG channel. - A public, educational, or governmental access channel provided to a county or city.

(7)        Secretary. - The Secretary of State.

(8)        Video programming. - Defined in G.S. 105-164.3. (2006-151, s. 1.)

 

§ 66-351.  State franchising authority.

(a)        Authority. - The Secretary of State is designated the exclusive franchising authority in this State for cable service provided over a cable system. This designation replaces the authorization to counties and cities in former G.S. 153A-137 and G.S. 160A-319 to award a franchise for cable service. This designation is effective January 1, 2007. After this date, a county or city may not award or renew a franchise for cable service.

(b)        Award and Scope. - The Secretary is considered to have awarded a franchise to a person who files a notice of franchise under G.S. 66-352. A franchise for cable service authorizes the holder of the franchise to construct and operate a cable system over public rights-of-way within the area to be served. Chapter 160A of the General Statutes governs the regulation of public rights-of-way by a city. (2006-151, s. 1.)

 

§ 66-352.  Award of franchise and commencement of service.

(a)        Notice of Franchise. - A person who intends to provide cable service over a cable system in an area must file a notice of franchise with the Secretary before providing the service. A person who files a notice of franchise must pay a fee in the amount set in G.S. 57D-1-22 for filing articles of organization.

A notice of franchise is effective when it is filed with the Secretary. The notice of franchise must include all of the following:

(1)        The applicant's name, principal place of business, mailing address, physical address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

(2)        A description and map of the area to be served. If the description includes the area within the boundaries of a city, the area to be served is considered to include any area that is subsequently annexed to the city unless the notice limits the area to be served to the boundaries of the city on the effective date of the notice.

(3)        A list of each county and city in which the described service area is located, in whole or in part.

(4)        A schedule indicating when service is expected to be offered in the service area.

(b)        Commencement of Service. - A person who files a notice of franchise under subsection (a) of this section must begin providing cable service in the service area described in the notice within 120 days after the notice is filed. If cable service does not begin within this period, the notice of franchise terminates 130 days after it was filed. If cable service begins within this period, the holder of the State-issued franchise must file a notice of service with the Secretary within 10 days after the cable service begins. Cable service begins when it passes one or more households in the described service area. This subsection does not apply to a cable service provider who terminates an existing agreement whose franchise area includes all of the service area described in a notice of franchise filed by the provider under subsection (a) of this section.

A notice of service for a service area must include all of the following:

(1)        The effective date of a notice of franchise for that area.

(2)        A description and map of the service area.

(3)        A statement that cable service has begun in the service area.

(c)        Extension. - A person who intends to provide cable service over a cable system in an area that is contiguous with but outside the service area described in a notice of franchise on file with the Secretary must file a notice of franchise under subsection (a) of this section that includes the proposed area. The initial service requirements in subsection (b) of this section apply to the proposed area. If the map of the area to be served includes any area that is part of the service area of another State-issued franchise, the termination of a notice of franchise for the proposed area for failure to begin service within the required time does not affect the status of the other State-issued franchise.

(d)        Withdrawal. - A person may withdraw a notice of franchise by filing a notice of withdrawal with the Secretary. The notice of withdrawal must be filed at least 90 days before the service is withdrawn.  (2006-151, s. 1; 2008-148, s. 5; 2013-157, s. 18.)

 

§ 66-353.  Annual service report.

A holder of a State-issued franchise must file an annual service report with the Secretary. The report must be filed on or before July 31 of each year. The report must be accompanied by a fee in the amount set in G.S. 57D-1-22 for filing an annual report. The report must include all of the following:

(1)        The effective date of a notice of franchise for that area.

(2)        A description and map of the service area.

(3)        The approximate number of households in the service area.

(4)        A description and a map of the households passed in the service area as of July 1.

(5)        The percentage of households passed in the service area as of July 1.

(6)        The percentage of households passed in the service area as of July 1 of any preceding year for which a report was required under this section.

(7)        A report indicating the extent to which the holder has met the customer service requirements under G.S. 66-356(b).

(8)        A schedule indicating when service is expected to be offered in the service area, to the extent the schedule differs from one included in the notice of franchise or in a report previously submitted under this section, and an explanation of the reason for the new schedule.  (2006-151, s. 1; 2013-157, s. 19.)

 

§ 66-354.  General filing and report requirements.

(a)        General. - A document filed with the Secretary under this Article must be signed by an officer or general partner of the person submitting the document. Within five days after a person files a document with the Secretary under this Article, the person must send a copy of the document to any county or city included in the service area described in the document and to the registered agent of any cable service provider that is providing cable service under an existing agreement in the service area described in the document.

The provisions of Article 2 of Chapter 55D of the General Statutes apply to the submission of a document under this Article. A document filed under this Article is a public record as defined in G.S. 132-1. The Secretary must post a document filed under this Article on its Internet Web site or indicate on its Internet Web site that the document has been filed and is available for inspection.

A successor in interest to a person who has filed a notice of franchise is not required to file another notice of franchise. When a change in ownership occurs, the owner must file a notice of change in ownership with the Secretary within 14 days after the change becomes effective.

(b)        Forfeiture. - A person who offers cable service over a cable system without filing a notice of franchise or a notice of service as required by this Article is subject to forfeiture of the revenue received during the period of noncompliance from subscribers to the cable service in the area of noncompliance. Forfeiture does not apply to revenue received from cable service provided over a cable system in an area that is adjacent to a service area described in a notice of franchise and notice of service filed by that cable service provider under G.S. 66-352 if the provider obtains a State-issued franchise and files a notice of service that includes this area within 20 days after a civil action for forfeiture is filed. A forfeiture does not affect the liability of the cable service provider for sales tax due under G.S. 105-164.4 on cable service.

A cable service provider whose area includes the area in which a person is providing cable service without complying with the notice of franchise and notice of service requirements may bring a civil action for forfeiture. The amount required to be forfeited in the action must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund established in G.S. 115C-457.2. (2006-151, s. 1.)

 

§ 66-355.  Effect on existing local franchise agreement.

(a)        Existing Agreement. - This Article does not affect an existing agreement except as follows:

(1)        Effective January 1, 2007, gross revenue used to calculate the payment of the franchise tax imposed by G.S. 153A-154 or G.S. 160A-214 does not include gross receipts from cable service subject to sales tax under G.S. 105-164.4. This exclusion does not otherwise affect the calculation of gross revenue and the payment to counties and cities of franchise tax revenue under existing agreements that have not been terminated under subsection (b) of this section.

(2)        A cable service provider under an existing agreement that is in effect on January 1, 2007, may terminate the agreement in accordance with subsection (b) of this section in any of the following circumstances:

a.         A notice of service filed under G.S. 66-352 indicates that one or more households in the franchise area of the existing agreement are passed by both the cable service provider under the existing agreement and the holder of a State-issued franchise.

b.         As of January 1, 2007, a county or city has an existing agreement with more than one cable service provider for substantially the same franchise area and at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the households in the franchise areas of the existing agreements are passed by more than one cable service provider.

c.         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. A notice of termination filed on the basis of wireline competition must include evidence of the competition in providing video programming service, such as an advertisement announcing the availability of the service, the acceptance of an order for the service, and information on the provider's Web site about the availability of the service. A county or city is allowed 60 days to review the evidence. The effective date of the termination is tolled during this review period. At the end of this period, the termination proceeds unless the county or city has obtained an order enjoining the termination based on the cable service provider's failure to establish the existence of wireline competition in its franchise area.

(3)        A cable service provider under an existing agreement that expired before January 1, 2007, may obtain a State-issued franchise. The provider does not have to terminate the agreement in accordance with subsection (b) of this section because the agreement has expired.

(b)        Termination. - To terminate an existing agreement, a cable service provider must file a notice of termination with the affected county or city and file a notice of franchise with the Secretary. A termination of an existing agreement becomes effective at the end of the month in which the notice of termination is filed with the affected county or city. A termination of an existing agreement ends the obligations under the agreement and under any local cable regulatory ordinance that specifically authorizes the agreement as of the effective date of the termination but does not affect the rights or liabilities of the county or city, a taxpayer, or another person arising under the existing agreement or local ordinance before the effective date of the termination. (2006-151, s. 1.)

 

§ 66-356.  Service standards and requirements.

(a)        Discrimination Prohibited. - A person who provides cable service over a cable system may not deny access to the service to any group of potential residential subscribers within the filed service area because of the race or income of the residents. A violation of this subsection is an unfair or deceptive act or practice under G.S. 75-1.1.

In determining whether a cable service provider has violated this subsection with respect to a group of potential residential subscribers in a service area, the following factors must be considered:

(1)        The length of time since the provider filed the notice of service for the area. If less than a year has elapsed since the notice of service was filed, it is conclusively presumed that a violation has not occurred.

(2)        The cost of providing service to the affected group due to distance from facilities, density, or other factors.

(3)        Technological impediments to providing service to the affected group.

(4)        Inability to obtain access to property required to provide service to the affected group.

(5)        Competitive pressure to respond to service offered by another cable service provider or other provider of video programming.

(b)        FCC Standards. - A person who provides cable service over a cable system must comply with the customer service requirements in 47 C.F.R. Part 76 and emergency alert requirements established by the Federal Communications Commission.

(c)        Complaints. - The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office is designated as the State agency to receive and respond to customer complaints concerning cable services. Persistent or repeated violations of the federal customer service requirements or the terms and conditions of the cable service provider's agreement with customers are unfair or deceptive acts or practices under G.S. 75-1.1.

To facilitate the resolution of customer complaints, the cable service provider must include the following statement on the customer's bill: "If you have a complaint about your cable service, you should first contact customer service at the following telephone number: (insert the cable service provider's customer service telephone number). If the cable service provider does not satisfactorily resolve your complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office of the State of North Carolina (insert information on how to contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office).

(d)        No Build-Out. - No build-out requirements apply to a person who provides cable service under a State-issued franchise.

(e)        [Report to Revenue Laws Study Committee. - ] The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office must report to the Revenue Laws Study Committee on or before April 1 of each year, beginning April 1, 2008, on the following information concerning cable service complaints the Division has received from cable customers under this section:

(1)        The number of customer complaints.

(2)        The types of customer complaints.

(3)        The different means of resolving customer complaints. (2006-151, ss. 1, 18.)

 

§ 66-357.  Availability and use of PEG channels.

(a)        Application. - This section applies to a person who provides cable service under a State-issued franchise. It does not apply to a person who provides cable service under an existing agreement.

(b)        Local Request. - A county or city must make a written request to a cable service provider for PEG channel capacity. The request must include a statement describing the county's or city's plan to operate and program each channel requested. The cable service provider must provide the requested PEG channel capacity within the later of the following:

(1)        120 days after the cable service provider receives the written request.

(2)        30 days after any interconnection requested under G.S. 66-358(a)(1) is accomplished.

(c)        Initial PEG Channels. - A city with a population of at least 50,000 is allowed a minimum of three initial PEG channels plus any channels in excess of this minimum that are activated, as of July 1, 2006, under the terms of an existing franchise agreement whose franchise area includes the city. A city with a population of less than 50,000 is allowed a minimum of two initial PEG channels plus any channels in excess of this minimum that are activated, as of July 1, 2006, under the terms of an existing franchise agreement whose franchise area includes the city. For a city included in the franchise area of an existing agreement, the agreement determines the service tier placement and transmission quality of the initial PEG channels. For a city that is not included in the franchise area of an existing agreement, the initial PEG channels must be on a basic service tier, and the transmission quality of the channels must be equivalent to those of the closest city covered by an existing agreement.

A county is allowed a minimum of two initial PEG channels plus any channels in excess of this minimum that are activated, as of July 1, 2006, under the terms of an existing franchise agreement whose franchise area includes the county. For a county included in the franchise area of an existing agreement, the agreement determines the service tier placement and transmission quality of the initial PEG channels. For a county that is not included in the franchise area of an existing agreement, the initial PEG channels must be on a basic service tier and the transmission quality of the channels must be equivalent to those of any city with PEG channels in the county.

The cable service provider must maintain the same channel designation for a PEG channel unless the service area of the State-issued franchise includes PEG channels that are operated by different counties or cities and those PEG channels have the same channel designation. Each county and city whose PEG channels are served by the same cable system headend must cooperate with each other and with the cable system provider in sharing the capacity needed to provide the PEG channels.

(d)        Additional PEG Channels. - A county or city that does not have seven PEG channels, including the initial PEG channels, is eligible for an additional PEG channel if it meets the programming requirements in this subsection. A county or city that has seven PEG channels is not eligible for an additional channel.

A county or city that meets the programming requirements in this subsection may make a written request under subsection (b) of this section for an additional channel. The additional channel may be provided on any service tier. The transmission quality of the additional channel must be at least equivalent to the transmission quality of the other channels provided.

The PEG channels operated by a county or city must meet the following programming requirements for at least 120 continuous days in order for the county or city to obtain an additional channel:

(1)        All of the PEG channels must have scheduled programming for at least eight hours a day.

(2)        The programming content of each of the PEG channels must not repeat more than fifteen percent (15%) of the programming content on any of the other PEG channels.

(3)        No more than fifteen percent (15%) of the programming content on any of the PEG channels may be character-generated programming.

(e)        Use of Channels. - If a county or city no longer provides any programming for transmission over a PEG channel it has activated, the channel may be reprogrammed at the cable service provider's discretion. A cable service provider must give at least a 60-day notice to a county or city before it reprograms a PEG channel that is not used. The cable service provider must restore a previously lost PEG channel within 120 days of the date a county or city certifies to the provider a schedule that demonstrates the channel will be used.

(f)         Operation of Channels. - A cable service provider is responsible only for the transmission of a PEG channel. The county or city to which the PEG channel is provided is responsible for the operation and content of the channel. A county or city that provides content to a cable service provider for transmission on a PEG channel is considered to have authorized the provider to transmit the content throughout the provider's service area, regardless of whether part of the service area is outside the boundaries of the county or city.

All programming on a PEG channel must be noncommercial. A cable service provider may not brand content on a PEG channel with its logo, name, or other identifying marks. A cable service provider is not required to transmit content on a PEG channel that is branded with the logo, name, or other identifying marks of another cable service provider.

(g)        Compliance. - A county or city that has not received PEG channel capacity as required by this section may bring an action to compel a cable service provider to comply with this section. (2006-151, s. 1.)

 

§ 66-358.  Transmission of PEG channels.

(a)        Service. - A cable service provider operating under a State-issued franchise must transmit a PEG channel by one of the following methods:

(1)        Interconnection with another cable system operated in its service area. A cable service provider operating in the same service area as a provider under a State-issued franchise must interconnect its cable system on reasonable and competitively neutral terms with the other provider's cable system within 120 days after it receives a written request for interconnection and may not refuse to interconnect on these terms. The terms include compensation for costs incurred in interconnecting. Interconnection may be accomplished by direct cable, microwave link, satellite, or another method of connection.

(2)        Transmission of the signal from each PEG channel programmer's origination site, if the origination site is in the provider's service area.

(b)        Signal. - All PEG channel programming provided to a cable service provider for transmission must meet the federal National Television System Committee standards or the Advanced Television Systems Committee Standards. If a PEG channel programmer complies with these standards and the cable service provider cannot transmit the programming without altering the transmission signal, then the cable service provider must do one of the following:

(1)        Alter the transmission signal to make it compatible with the technology or protocol the cable service provider uses to deliver its cable service.

(2)        Provide to the county or city the equipment needed to alter the transmission signal to make it compatible with the technology or protocol the cable service provider uses to deliver its cable service. (2006-151, s. 1.)

 

§ 66-359: Repealed by Session Laws 2010-158, s. 11(a), effective July 1, 2010.

 

§ 66-360.  Service to public building.

At the written request of a county or city, a cable service provider operating under a State-issued franchise must provide cable service without charge to a public building located within 125 feet of the provider's cable system. The required service is the basic, or lowest-priced, service the provider offers to customers. The terms and conditions that apply to service provided to a residential retail customer apply to the service provided to the public building. Only one service outlet is required for a building. The cable service provider is not required to provide inside wiring and is not required to provide service that conflicts with restrictions that apply in a program licensing agreement or another contract. A public building is a building used as a public school, a charter school, a county or city library, or a function of the county or city. (2006-151, s. 1.)