TCA

Consumers benefit from cable legislative wins

The 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature gaveled to a close on May 27. For cable companies and their consumers, the session was a successful one. From protecting the industry against broadband deployment legislation that wasn’t ready for prime time, and disaster response bills that would have added onerous reporting requirement for our member companies, the 86th Legislative session was a successful one for the Texas Cable Association (TCA). Legislation to save consumers money and to protect the privacy of their data were among those passed that the TCA and its member companies advocated.


Right-of-way reform: Erase a telecom tax & save consumers money

SB 1152 (by Sen. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Dade Phelan)

Municipalities currently charge companies for the right to place lines that provide consumers with services like video and telecommunications in the public right of way (ROW). Because of duplicative and outdated laws, if a line handles both voice and video service, the city charges the provider twice for access on the same line. Those charges are reflected on most customer’s bills.

In reality today, both telecom and video providers transmit multiple services over one line – just one access point. Therefore, two separate fees should no longer be assessed on providers or paid by customers.

Senate Bill 1152, strongly advocated by the Texas Cable Association, will allow telecommunication and video providers that currently pay both the telecommunications access fee under Chapter 283 of the Local Government Code and video franchise fee under Chapter 66 of the Public Utility Regulatory Act to elect to pay only the higher of the two fees. The provider is exempted from owing the smaller fee. As a result, millions of Texans will see a line item fee erased from their monthly bill, saving customers millions of dollars annually.

The bill also ensures that cities will not be unduly harmed; they will continue to receive a fee in every municipality where they currently collect for access. The bill also includes language to protect the cities’ current ability to charge up to a 1% franchise fee to provide Public, Education or Governmental (PEG) channels.

This bill has been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. It becomes effective on Sept. 1 and applies to fee collections beginning Jan.1, 2020. 


Protect consumer privacy

HB 4390 (by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione and Sen. Jane Nelson)

The Texas cable industry worked with the business community on House Bill 4390 to update requirements for the disclosure of data breaches affecting the loss of sensitive personal information. The bill also creates the Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council to study data privacy laws in Texas, other states and relevant foreign jurisdictions. The council will be composed of 15 members; five each will be appointed by the Texas House speaker, the lieutenant governor and the governor.

The council is required to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2020. The council will be abolished Dec. 31, 2020.

The bill has been signed into law by Gov. Abbott and becomes effective Sept. 1.

June TCA Newsletter

In cities and towns across Texas, local cable operators and their employees make their communities a better place to live. Cable companies not only make financial and in-kind donations to numerous civic and charitable organizations, but employees volunteer thousands of hours of their time each year. Check out the latest cable industry community initiatives below.

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June Programming Highlights

This June, don’t miss the exclusive television premiere of The Legend of 5 Mile Cave on INSP! The film follows a mysterious drifter who bonds with a boy over tales of the West. Past and present collide when a crooked lawman appears seeking long-lost gold. Stars Adam Baldwin (The Last Ship, Full Metal Jacket, The Patriot), Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan, Soul Surfer), Jill Wagner (Braven, Christmas Cookies), and Jet Jurgensmeyer (Last Man Standing, American Sniper). The movie premieres Sunday, June 9th at 7 pm CT with an encore showing on Saturday, June 29th at 7 pm CT!


Ghostbusters: Behind Closed Doors
Sunday, June 2 at 8pm CST
Ghostbusters: Behind Closed Doors hosted by Natalie Morales goes inside the movie with the real stories from stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver and Ernie Hudson. See the surprising backstories and how cast and crew held it together making the movie in blistering time. Cast and crew also reflect on the impact and legacy of the late Harold Ramis whose quirky Egon Spangler touched an entire fan base. Included are interviews from Ghostbusters super fan Al Roker, Harold Ramis’ daughter Violet Ramis Stiel, author and podcast host James Andrew Miller and director Ivan Reitman.
https://www.reelz.com/ghostbusters-behind-closed-doors/

Elton John: Ten Days That Rocked
Sunday, June 9 at 8pm CST
The two hour documentary Elton John: Ten Days That Rocked lifts the lid on one of the most iconic singers, songwriters and performers of all time with a look at the most powerful moments that molded his career and identity. Elton Highlights each moment in his own words as he reflects on each major milestone that altered the trajectory of his life. Becoming an Oscar winner, being knighted by the Queen and having more than 300 million records sold are just a few of the highlights that made Elton John’s half-century-long career legendary.

Breaking The Band
Sunday, June 16 at 8pm CST
In all new hour-long episodes of Breaking the Band see the battling egos, power struggles and inter-band rivalries that split up Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, the Spice Girls and New Kids on the Block among others. From crippling drug addictions and creative differences to scandalous affairs, shady business dealings and overdoses on fame Breaking the Band uncovers the incredible true stories by recreating the key moments the cameras missed in addition to using rare band interviews and off-stage footage to piece together each dramatic tale.
https://www.reelz.com/breaking-the-band/

The Michael Jackson Story
Sunday, June 23 at 8pm CST
At his sudden death at just 50 years old Michael Jackson had spent nearly 40 of those years in the public spotlight, but for decades the megastar was embroiled in a series of controversies that would reignite a decade later. In The Michael Jackson Story host Natalie Morales explores the King of Pop’s life, career and many eccentricities as well as his complicated legacy. Included is a look at Jackson’s years as a childhood prodigy and the fascinating backstories for hit albums Off the Wall and Thriller. Interviews include Jackson family publicist Steve Manning, Michael Jackson’s former choreographer Travis Payne, friend Bryan Michael Stoller, former VP of publicity at Epic Records Susan Blond, New York Times music writer Jim Farber and “We Are the World” tour organizer Ken Kragen among others.

Farrah Fawcett: Behind Closed Doors
Monday, June 24 at 8pm CST
With a famous head of hair, that legendary red bathing suit poster and a starring role on the massive hit TV show Charlie’s Angels Farrah Fawcett secured her place among the stars. Hosted by Natalie Morales Farrah Fawcett: Behind Closed Doors is a look at the life and legacy of the original angel and poster-girl-next-door revealing the real story of a star never destined to play by anyone else’s rules. From the unexpected moves she makes in her career to the men she gave her heart to, hear Fawcett in her own words describe how she managed super stardom, relationships, becoming a mother and confronting her devastating cancer diagnosis.
https://www.reelz.com/behind-closed-doors/

https://www.reelz.com/

SPECTRUM MOBILE EXPANDS ‘BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE’ OPTIONS

Charter Communications, Inc., today announced an expansion of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program to all of its sales channels. Now, customers can activate select iPhones and Samsung devices on Spectrum Mobile by visiting Spectrum Mobile retail store locations or SpectrumMobile.com, or by calling 1-855-892-2072.

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May TCA Newsletter

In cities and towns across Texas, local cable operators and their employees make their communities a better place to live. Cable companies not only make financial and in-kind donations to numerous civic and charitable organizations, but employees volunteer thousands of hours of their time each year. Check out the latest cable industry community initiatives below.

Read More

APRIL PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHTS

James Arness Movie Month
A legitimate war hero who earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other commendations, James Arness put his real-life leadership experience into the characters he played. This month INSP pays tribute to his roles as US Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke and as Zebulon Macahan in How the West Was Won. Watch James Arness movies all April long, only on INSP!


Manson: The Funeral
Saturday, April 13 @ 7PM CST

“Charles Manson: The Funeral” goes inside the journey of Charles Manson’s grandson Jason Freeman who fought to control the notorious cult leader’s body and funeral. What unfolds confounds Freeman as he wrestles with the duty of caring for a deceased relative who also happens to be one of the world’s most vile criminals. The documentary goes inside the funeral with the first-ever footage of the service and cremation and shows viewers what happens when Freeman crosses paths with Manson supporters who want to say goodbye and add their own disturbing touch to his memory.
https://www.reelz.com/charles-manson-funeral/

Friends: Behind Closed Doors
Sunday, April 28 @ 8PM CST

Behind Closed Doors original documentary specials hosted by Natalie Morales return with new episodes about the lives and legacies of Paul Walker, Grease and John Ritter. Behind Closed Doors specials examine the lives of beloved celebrities and capitalizes on the vast offerings of NBC News historical archives including rarely seen footage and revealing interviews with the celebrities themselves along with fresh interviews from those who personally knew or worked with them.
https://www.reelz.com/behind-closed-doors/

MAKING CABLE LESS TAXING

With April 15 looming, taxes are likely at the forefront of your mind. No one – individual or business – enjoys paying them. The Texas cable industry is supporting legislation this session that would eliminate a double a tax it currently pays, giving tax relief to tens of millions of Texas cable subscribers. This is the latest legislative effort supported by the cable industry in recent years to cut Texans’ telecommunications taxes that once were among the highest in the nation.

Currently, cable companies and other telecommunications providers that install lines in a city’s right-of-way (ROW) pay the city for the right to occupy that right-of-way. However, because of outdated and duplicative ROW laws – telephone providers pay per access line under Chapter 283 of the Local Government Code, and video providers pay franchise fees totaling up to 6% of gross revenue under Chapter 66 of the Public Utilities Act – that provider pays the city each time if it sends both telephone calls and video over the same wire, which is commonplace today.

While the impact to the city’s right-of-way has not changed, two different taxes apply to that one wire. This cost of telecommunications services is paid by Texas consumers. Think of it like paying the fee when you drive your car on a toll road: You agree that you’re required to pay a fee to use the toll road, but you don’t pay twice for having a second person in the vehicle with you.

The Texas Cable Association and its cable company members – Altice USA (which provides Suddenlink services), Cable ONE, Charter Spectrum and Comcast – are asking the Legislature to modernize ROW laws by requiring a provider to pay the city the larger of the two taxes – but not both. 

Ending this double tax for Texas consumers would erase this line item from their monthly bill, saving them an estimated $100 million each year. This amount is only a small percentage of the taxes and fees cable companies would continue to pay to the state of Texas and the cities they serve.

This bill makes Texas one of only two states (Florida being the other) considering legislation to lower taxes and fees imposed on telecommunications providers by millions of dollars, Forbes recently reported.

The Texas cable industry has a history over the past decade of advocating for state laws to lower the tax burden for both themselves and their customers. 

In 2013, TCA supported legislation to equalize the local and state sales taxes paid by cable companies and satellite providers. At the time, cable TV providers and their viewers were paying more than $200 million in annual sales taxes on top of local franchise fees that their satellite TV competitors didn’t have to pay. Had it passed, the tax break would have gone directly to consumers by freeing them from paying sales taxes on the first $75 of their monthly bills, effectively lowering their bills.

Today, only traditional cable providers – and as a result, their customers – pay full-freight state and local sales taxes and cities’ franchise ROW taxes. Streaming video services like Netflix are not subject to cities’ franchise taxes, nor are satellite customers, who also pay no local sales tax.

But Texas phone customers did find some relief from the Texas Legislature in 2013. As a result of passed legislation, the Public Utility Commission of Texas continued its efforts to reduce costs for Texas phone customers by cutting the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF) tax rate – a win for consumers in the fight to stop paying unnecessary taxes used to provide millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to major phone companies. For many consumers, these taxes added significantly to the overall monthly bills for home and business landlines and cell phones. 

The cut was a long time coming in the quest by the Texas Cable Association and others to reform an antiquated phone tax that has changed little since it was created in the late 1990s primarily to subsidize basic landline telephone service for Texans living in rural areas that sometimes were more expensive to serve. 

On the federal level, cable subscribers also are saving tax dollars thanks congressional action. The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which bans local, state and federal taxation of email and internet access, became permanent law when President Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. One estimate suggested that the moratorium on Internet access taxes could equal as much as $6.5 billion each year. At that time, Texas was one of seven states that taxed internet subscription fees.

“By keeping internet access free from state and local taxes, ITFA (the Internet Tax Freedom Act) will permanently keep down the cost of connectivity, enable more American consumers and businesses to get online and allow the internet to further power economic growth,” said Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, when the provision was passed by the U.S. Senate.

Consent and Notice are Key to Protecting Privacy Online

At today’s FTC hearing on Competition and Consumer Protection, I had the opportunity to speak about the importance of establishing a strong legal framework to protect consumers’ privacy online. I reiterated Charter’s support for a national policy framework that gives consumers better tools to control and protect their personal information. As the leading consumer protection agency, the FTC has an important voice in the ongoing policy debate about online privacy and we welcomed the opportunity to be a part of its process to identify solutions that enhance consumer privacy protections across the internet.

During the panel, I explained that a new national framework should be based on the principles of transparency and consumer control. All companies doing business online would be required to tell consumers about their privacy practices and obtain their affirmative consent before using or sharing consumers’ data with limited exceptions (such as using information needed to render the service requested by consumer). Such “opt-in” consent would empower consumers to control how and when their personal data is used, give them comfort that their information is not being misused, and at the same time allow companies to innovate and provide high-quality services.

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Low-Tax State Officials Propose More Tax Relief, As High-Tax State Lawmakers Push More Rate Hikes

Right now, both Florida and Texas are considering legislation that would lower the taxes and fees imposed on telecommunications providers and result in millions dollars in savings….Meanwhile, lawmakers in Texas are also looking to reduce the taxes and fees on monthly cable and phone bills. Throughout the country, local governments typically charge a fee when a telecommunications provider lays a line in the right-of-way. In Texas, however, arcane laws force providers to pay two fees on one line if it is used to provide both voice and video service.

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