FCC Kick-Starts Elimination of 30-Day Blackout Warning

WASHINGTON—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and all of his commissioners were in agreement that it is time to consider eliminating the 30-day window cable operators are currently required to provide customers of a potential change to their cable service.

Voted on during the FCC’s December Open Meeting, this decision results in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will seek comment on whether to change the rules that require cable operators providers to notify subscribers 30 days in advance in regards to service changes related to programming or retransmission issues (i.e. blackouts) to instead doing so “as soon as possible.”

In addition, the NPRM will also seek comments on removing what the FCC described as redundant rules regarding notifications cable operators must provide local franchise authorities.

Many retransmission deals are completed in the final hour before the previous agreement is set to expire. Pai believes that changing the notification time to as soon as possible would help eliminate confusion among customers.

However, though all commissioners supported the NPRM, Commissioner Geoffrey Stark did have some reservations.

“This NPRM proposes to amend our statutorily mandated consumer protection rules in a way that, I fear, could result in less information being shared with consumers and more unwelcome surprises in the form of blacked out channels and lost service,” said Starks.

Starks, according to his statement, decided to vote for the NPRM after Chairman Pai added questions about potential consumer harm that could result from a customer learning about a blackout after it had already begun.

The other commissioners supported the initiative and were able to add questions to the NPRM that they believe would provide more critical information.

No deadline for comments has been set as of yet.

For more information on the NPRM, visit the FCC website.