Where to File Complaints Regarding Cable Service



The Federal Communications Commission and local franchising authorities are responsible for enforcing a variety of cable television regulations. A franchising authority is the local municipal, county or other government organization that regulates cable television service at the state or local level. The name of the franchising authority should be on the front or back of your cable bill. If this information is not on your bill, contact your cable company or your local town or city hall.

The Commission expects cable operators to follow all of its rules and regulations. However, the Commission has developed enforcement mechanisms designed to protect consumers in the event that these rules are not followed.

You should always contact your cable company first when you have a complaint. In many cases, the customer service representatives at your cable company will be able to assist you and solve your problem. The telephone number for your cable company should be on your cable bill. Your cable company has jurisdiction over the following issues:

  • Programming carried on the system. With the exception of rules that require cable systems to carry certain local broadcast stations, cable systems decide which programming services to carry. Therefore, you should contact your cable system if it has dropped a particular channel.
  • Carriage of FM and AM radio stations.
  • Charges for pay-per-view or pay-per-channel programming. The rates charged for this type of programming are not regulated.

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the cable company, you should then contact your local franchising authority.

You should contact your franchising authority if you have questions or complaints about the following issues:

  • Rates for basic service and equipment, installation and service charges related to basic service. This refers to the lowest level of cable service you can buy and generally includes local broadcast channels and public, educational and governmental access channels.
  • Rates for cable programming services tiers, also known as "enhanced basic." Cable programming services tiers includes those programming services except the basic service tier, and does not include any premium channels (such as HBO or Showtime) or any pay-per-view services. A subscriber may file a complaint with the local franchise authority within 90 days of an increase in the cost of the cable programming services. Only a local franchise authority may file a formal rate complaint with the Commission, and it may do so only after receiving complaints from more than one subscriber.
  • Customer service problems, including billing disputes, office hours, telephone availability of personnel, installations, outages and service calls. Local franchise authorities may adopt the Commission's Customer Service rules, at any time. The local franchise authority must provide the cable operator 90-days notice prior to enforcing the federal standards, and may not adopt more stringent standards without the cable operator's consent.
  • Franchise fees, which are determined and retained by local governments.
  • Signal quality, including interference and reception difficulties.
  • Use of public, educational, and governmental (PEG) channels. These channels may be required as part of the franchise agreement. Your local franchise authority can provide information on any terms or conditions of use.

You should contact the FCC if you have complaints or questions about the following issues:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints. Contact the FCC, Mass Media Bureau, Enforcement Division, EEO Branch, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554, or call (202) 418-1450.
  • Signal leakage from cable systems, which can result in interference to other users of the spectrum, including aeronautical services. The Commission's field offices enforce these rules in conjunction with the Washington, D.C., office. Contact (202) 418-0250 for the name of the field office in your area.
  • Cable home wiring questions. If you believe that your cable company has violated cable home wiring rules, send a letter outlining the facts to the FCC, Cable Services Bureau, Consumer Protection and Competition Division, Attention: Home Wiring Complaint, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
  • Equipment compatibility. The Commission has adopted rules to ensure simplified compatibility between home equipment such as TVs and VCRs and cable systems. Call (202) 418-7096 for assistance.
  • Commercial limits for childrens' programming. Write to the FCC, Cable Services Bureau, Consumer Protection and Competition Division, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
  • Indecency and obscenity. Complaints must be submitted in writing to the FCC, Cable Services Bureau, Consumer Protection and Competition Division, Attention: Indecency/Obscenity, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, DC, 20554. Include a tape, transcript or significant excerpt from the program, the date and time of the program, and the name of the station showing the program.

You may always contact the FCC for assistance in understanding cable regulations. The following telephone numbers and addresses may prove helpful:

  • You may write to the Federal Communications Commission, General Cable Inquiries, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.
  • You may call (202) 418-7200 to speak with a Cable Services Bureau staff member.
  • You may call our Fax on Demand system to obtain copies of certain fact sheets and Commission information. The Fax on Demand number is (202) 418-2830
  • You may call the Consumer Assistance Branch at (202) 418-0200 to have fact sheets describing various aspects of cable regulations mailed to you.
  • You may access recent Commission decisions regarding cable regulations via Internet. The FCC's Internet addresses are:
    • World Wide Web site: http:&bsl;www.fcc.gov
    • FTP site: ftp.fcc.gov (log on as anonymous, use your e-mail address as password)
    • Gopher site: gopher.fcc.gov.
  • You may purchase copies of the Commission's cable regulations and the Communications Act through International Transcription Service, (202) 857-3800.

You may also contact your local and state consumer protection organizations for assistance in understanding your rights and responsibilities as a cable subscriber.

Finally, cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers are required to maintain certain documents in a public inspection file. These documents include a political programming file; sponsorship identification; EEO reports; commercial records for childrens' programming; leased access requirements; proof-of-performance tests; and signal leakage and repair logs. These are available for public inspection and copying. In addition, systems must have a current copy of Part 76 of the Commission's rules, which cover cable television.

- FCC -

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