If your satellite and cable TV goes out for more than 24 hours, you would be entitled to a refund under a proposal being introduced by the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.
The proposal would push cable and internet providers to give consumers their money back when they fall short on a service, according to a senior FCC official.
Two prominent blackouts this year alone served as a catalyst for the commission’s proposal, the senior official said. The dispute between Charter Communications and Disney, along with Nexstar and DirecTV, that caused millions of customers to lose access to channels, pushed the commission to start looking at solutions for consumers.
What’s in it for the consumer?
What the refunds look like will vary, the official said. They will discuss whether refunds will come in the form of refunded money, credit on bill, or decreased bill for the following month.
In addition to refunds, the commission is proposing a reporting component. Currently, blackouts are reported to the commission voluntarily, which makes it difficult to track how often they occur and by which companies.
Separately the commission addressed issues on broadband oversight in an Oct. 5 fact sheet about the federal government’s lack of authority over broadband outages and how it “leaves open a national security loophole.” But restoring the commission’s oversight with net neutrality rules could help bolster their authority “to require internet service providers to report and fix internet outages” and also inform the public of such outages.
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What other blackouts happened this year?
In addition to the dispute between Charter Communications and Disney that led to ESPN channels getting blacked out affecting 15 million subscribers, Nexstar and DirecTV also entered into a two-month blackout beginning in July, after Nexstar pulled their channels from the satellite television provider in July, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The move left 10 million DirectTV customers without local broadcast affiliates, the CW network and the company’s upstart cable news channel.
DirecTV put measures in place to grant consumers with refunds, and The Buffalo News also reported that Charter began communicating with customers about a “prorated credit for Disney content” that wasn’t available to customers during the blackout.
For now, the commission’s proposal is about starting a conversation about refunds before they solicit comments from the public, the senior official said.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the proposed rule affects satellite and cable providers.