Beginning in late April 2008, all cable television operators will be required to provide specific customer notices in monthly bills to educate customers about the digital television (DTV) transition. All cable operators and other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) should take immediate steps to comply with the notification requirements outlined in this advisory.
Full-power television stations are scheduled to transition from analog to digital broadcast service on Feb. 17, 2009. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted rules designed to provide consumers with clear information about the digital transition. The monthly notification requirements apply to cable television companies and other MVPDs, such as direct broadcast satellite (DBS) carriers, open video systems and private cable operators, and will go into effect 30 days after the FCC's order is published in the Federal Register and the rules are approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The notification requirements remain in effect through March 2009.
The FCC's rules state that the notices “must be provided as part of an information section on the bill or bill notice itself or on a secondary document mailed with the bill or bill notice, in the same language or languages as the bill or bill notice.” Notices must be in “clear and conspicuous print” and convey at least the following specific information about the DTV transition:
- After Feb. 17, 2009, a television receiver with only an analog broadcast tuner will require a converter box to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the nation's transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products.
- Information about the DTV transition is available from www.dtv.gov or this MVPD at [insert the telephone number and website of the MVPD if available], and from www.dtv2009.gov or 1-888-DTV-2009 for information about subsidized coupons for digital-to-analog converter boxes.
Additionally, the notices must explain clearly what effect, if any, the DTV transition will have on the customer's access to the MVPD's service and explain that analog sets not connected to an MVPD service may need additional equipment, such as a converter box, or may have to be replaced.
If a customer does not receive a paper version of either a bill or a notice of billing, an MVPD must provide that customer with equivalent monthly notices in whatever medium or format the customer receives monthly billing information.
Because the FCC's notification requirement is expected to take effect by late April, all cable operators and other MVPDs should move quickly to comply with the requirements. The precise effective date will become known only after the FCC's order appears in the Federal Register and the rules are approved by the OMB—which is expected to occur as early as next week. Consequently, to ensure compliance, all cable operators should arrange to include the required notice in all customer bills that are issued after April 23, 2008.
If you have any questions about these new monthly notification requirements, or need assistance in preparing the notifications, please contact us.