The Vermont Statutes Online
NOTE: The Vermont Statutes Online is an unofficial copy of the Vermont Statutes Annotated that is provided as a convenience.
NOTE: The online version of the Vermont Statutes does NOT yet include the actions of the 2023 legislative session. The 2023 updates should be available by the end of October.
§ 501. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Commission” shall mean the Public Utility Commission.
(2) “Cable television system” means facilities by which television signals are received at a central location and for consideration are transmitted to customers or subscribers by means of cables or wires.
(3) “Company” or “companies” means persons, partnerships, associations, corporations, including a municipality authorized under section 513 of this title, owning or operating a cable television system, except nonprofit systems serving fewer than 100 subscribers. (Added 1969, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 10, 1970; amended 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 502. Jurisdiction
(a) A company subject to supervision under this chapter shall have the privileges provided in and be subject to the provisions of chapters 1 through 7 of this title.
(b) The Commission shall be the franchising authority in the State empowered to grant, renew, and revoke certificates of public good for all cable television systems and shall have all other authority to regulate cable television systems.
(c) In any ratemaking and certification, it shall be the continuing policy of the State of Vermont that the capital investment on which rates shall be based will be the historic original cost of the assets of the company less accumulated depreciation of those assets. (Added 1969, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 10, 1970; amended 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 32, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 503. Certification
(a) No company may own or operate a cable television system unless it holds a certificate of public good issued by the Commission authorizing it to do so.
(b) The Commission shall hear and determine applications in accordance with the criteria of section 504 of this title and the procedures set forth in sections 102 and 231 of this title.
(c) Application for a certificate of public good shall be made in writing to the Commission and shall contain the names of the owners or incorporators of the company, a description of the territory proposed to be served, a statement as to the proposed financing for the company, and such other information as the Commission by rule requires.
(d) Existing certificates of public good shall continue in full force and effect, but shall be deemed to include all terms and conditions imposed by this chapter and by the rules of the Public Utility Commission, and any inconsistent provision of any certificate of public good shall have no force or effect.
(e) Certificates of indefinite duration may be amended to provide for a duration of 11 years and such other terms as the Commission, after opportunity for hearing, may find appropriate.
(f) Revocation for cause: At any time a certificate of public good of a company issued pursuant to this section or section 504 of this title shall be subject to revocation under the provisions of section 509 of this title, regardless of whether it is subject to review, is seeking renewal, is electing not to seek renewal, or has been denied renewal. (Added 1969, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 10, 1970; amended 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. June 21, 1988; 1993, No. 21, § 13, eff. May 12, 1993.)
§ 504. Certificates of public good
(a) Certificates of public good granted under this chapter shall be for a period of 11 years.
(b) Issuance of a certificate shall be after opportunity for hearing and findings by the Commission that the applicant has complied or will comply with requirements adopted by the Commission to ensure that the system provides:
(1) designation of adequate channel capacity and appropriate facilities for public, educational, or governmental use;
(2) adequate and technically sound facilities and equipment, and signal quality;
(3) a reasonably broad range of public, educational, and governmental programming;
(4) the prohibition of discrimination among customers of basic service; and
(5) basic service in a competitive market, and if a competitive market does not exist, that the system provides basic service at reasonable rates determined in accordance with section 218 of this title.
(c) In addition to the requirements set forth in subsection (b) of this section, the Commission shall ensure that the system provides or utilizes:
(1) a reasonable quality of service for basic, premium, or otherwise, having regard to available technology, subscriber interest, and cost;
(2) construction, including installation, which conforms to all applicable State and federal laws and regulations and the National Electric Safety Code;
(3) a competent staff sufficient to provide adequate and prompt service and to respond quickly and comprehensively to customer and Department complaints and problems;
(4) unless waived by the Commission, an office that shall be open during usual business hours, and a listed, toll-free telephone number so that complaints and requests for repairs or adjustments may be received; and
(5) reasonable rules and policies for line extensions, disconnections, customer deposits, and billing practices.
(d) A certificate granted to a company shall represent nonexclusive authority of that company to build and operate a cable television system to serve customers only within specified geographical boundaries. Extension of service beyond those boundaries may be made pursuant to the criteria in section 504 of this title, and the procedures in section 231 of this title. (Added 1969, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 10, 1970; amended 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. June 21, 1988; 1993, No. 21, § 14, eff. May 12, 1993; 2017, No. 113 (Adj. Sess.), § 174.)
§ 505. Service
No company holding a certificate of public good under this chapter may abandon or curtail any service subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission or abandon all or any part of its facilities if it would thereby effect the abandonment, curtailment, or impairment of the service, without obtaining approval of the Public Utility Commission, after notice and opportunity for hearing, and upon a finding by the Commission that the abandonment or curtailment is consistent with the public interest. (Added 1969, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 10, 1970; amended 1993, No. 21, § 15, eff. May 12, 1993.)
§ 506. Renewal
Certificates with a limited duration may be renewed during or at the end of the period, after opportunity for hearing held according to the criteria for the granting of an original certificate in section 504 of this title and after the Commission has made the finding required by that section. As part of the renewal proceedings, the Commission shall hold a public hearing in each county served pursuant to the certificates which are the subject of the renewal proceedings. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. June 21, 1988; amended 1999, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 11.)
§ 507. Repealed. 1973, No. 147 (Adj. Sess.), § 3.
§ 508. Unauthorized operation; penalty
A person or company rendering service that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission under this chapter, without holding a certificate of public good issued by the Public Utility Commission for that purpose under this chapter, may be fined not more than $1,000.00 for each day. (Added 1971, No. 202 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. May 1, 1972; amended 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 8, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 509. Amendment and revocation; fines; assurance of discontinuance
(a) For good cause, after opportunity for hearing, the Commission may amend or revoke any certificate of public good awarded pursuant to section 503 or 504 of this title.
(b) If the Commission finds that a company has violated any material provision of its certificate or this chapter, it shall allow the company a reasonable opportunity to cure the violation. Thereafter, in the event of failure to cure, the Commission may enter an order revoking the certificate. In addition, the Commission may impose a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000.00 per day nor a total of $20,000.00 for each violation unless otherwise provided in the certificate of public good, after giving due consideration to the size of the company, severity of the violation, and efforts to cure.
(c) In any case in which the Commission may revoke a certificate, in lieu thereof, the Commission may accept an assurance of discontinuance of any method, act, or practice from any company. Such assurance may include a stipulation for affirmative action by such company, payment of the costs of investigation, or of an amount to be held in escrow pending the outcome of an action or as restitution to aggrieved consumers, or any of the above. Any such assurance of discontinuance shall be in writing and may be sought and negotiated by the Department of Public Service, subject to the approval of the Commission. Proof of a violation of such assurance shall be prima facie evidence of violation of this chapter, or of the terms and conditions of a certificate granted under this chapter. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 9, eff. June 21, 1988; amended 1999, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 12.)
§ 510. Notice to subscribers regarding quality of service
(a) Annually, every company shall cause to be mailed to each of its subscribers a notice which:
(1) states that the Commission and the Department of Public Service desire to hear the views of subscribers regarding the quality of services provided by the cable television system and as to the reasonableness of the terms upon which such services are provided; and
(2) informs subscribers as to how to communicate their views to the Commission, to the Department, and to the company.
(b) The notice required by this section shall be in nontechnical language, comprehensible to the lay public, and in a form approved by the Commission.
(c) On or before January 30 of each year, the company shall certify to the Commission, under oath, that it has distributed the notice during the previous calendar year as required by this section. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 10, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 511. Extensions for transfer or sale
At the end of a certificate period which was not renewed, or if a certificate is revoked, the Commission may grant the company a period of time, not to exceed one year, to transfer ownership or sell company assets. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 11, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 512. Assistance to unserved areas
(a) The legislative body of a municipality unserved by a cable television system, and which desires such service, may request the assistance of the Department of Public Service. Upon receipt of any request from a municipality in an unserved area, the Department shall analyze and define the service territory, taking particular account of the type of service that may be requested by the municipality, and the service currently provided by companies in contiguous areas. The Department shall prepare a request for proposals to provide such service and submit the request to all companies which the Department determines would likely serve the areas, and shall advertise in the local trade and press.
(b) Upon receipt of any responses to serve the municipality, the Department shall submit them together with any comment thereon to the municipality, and invite the responding companies to apply for a certificate of public good under this chapter. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 12, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 513. Municipal cable television systems
(a) A municipality may establish de novo a cable television system in an area otherwise unserved after proceeding under section 512 of this title. A municipality may do so under this section without obtaining amendments to and General Assembly authorization of its municipal charter for that purpose. However, this section shall not be construed to affect or limit the authority of any municipality to establish and operate a cable television system under authority of a municipal charter or ordinance.
(b) A company established by a municipality under this section, shall obtain a certificate of public good for the construction or operation of a cable television system under this chapter.
(c) For the purpose of this section, a municipality shall mean any city, town, or village within this State.
(d) Prior to establishing a cable television system under this subsection, a municipality must first obtain authorization from its legislative body or voters in the manner prescribed for authorizing municipal electric plants under section 2903 or 2904 of this title. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 13, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 514. Annual report
At the time of filing its annual report under section 22 of this title, each company shall also file with the Commission and the Department the following:
(1) a map sufficiently outlining the company’s service territory and describing its existing plant and any extension and replacements planned for commencement or completion within one year from the close of the preceding calendar year or annual period;
(2) a listing of services, the rate charged for each such service as of the date of the filing of the report, a statement of any changes in any such rates from the preceding calendar year or period, and a statement of the revenues derived from each service during such calendar year or annual period;
(3) a statement of significant changes to be implemented during the current calendar year or annual period in the company’s business structure, operating procedures, and services to be offered;
(4) a copy of the company’s access plan, if any, and a description of its access facilities and services and the use thereof during the preceding calendar year or annual period;
(5) a copy of all written consumer complaints and notations regarding oral and telephonic complaints received during the preceding calendar year or annual period;
(6) a balance sheet, an income statement, a statement of changes in financial condition, and a statement of assets used and useful for the provision of service in Vermont, all as of the close of the preceding calendar year or annual period. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 14, eff. June 21, 1988.)
§ 515. Acquisition of control of a company subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission
(a) No person, corporation, partnership, or unincorporated association shall acquire ownership of greater than 40 percent of the voting securities in a company as defined in subdivision 501(3) of this title subject to the supervision of the Public Utility Commission without the approval of the Commission after due notice and opportunity for hearing and a finding on its part that such acquisition will not be contrary to the public good.
(b) For the purposes of this section, voting security means any stock or security presently entitling the owner or holder thereof to vote in the direction or management of the affairs of a company or any security issued under or pursuant to any trust, agreement, or arrangement whereby a trustee or trustees or agent or agents for the owner or holder of such a security are presently entitled to vote in the direction or management of the affairs of a company.
(c) A specified per centum of the outstanding voting securities of such company means such amount of outstanding voting securities of such company as entitles the holder or holders thereof to cast said specified per centum of the aggregate votes which the holders of all the outstanding voting securities of such company are entitled to cast in the direction or management of the affairs of such company. (Added 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 15, eff. June 21, 1988; amended 1999, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 13.)
§ 516. Modification by the Commission of cable television tariff requirements
(a) The Commission may modify, reduce, or suspend requirements under sections 225 and 226, subsection 227(a), and section 229 of this title if it finds that provisions of federal law have the effect of substantially preventing the Commission from exercising its authority under those sections to investigate or determine if cable television rates are just and reasonable. In exercising its authority under this section, the Commission may adopt such terms and conditions as it finds reasonable and shall ensure that the remaining requirements under this title will afford the public at least as much protection as the applicable regulatory requirements being suspended or reduced.
(b) When exercising its authority under this section, the Commission may act by rule or, after notice and opportunity for hearing, it may act by order. The modifications, reductions, or suspensions may apply to one or more classes of cable television service provider and may apply differently to each class.
(c) Upon petition of the Department, the Commission shall, and upon its own initiative the Commission may, investigate whether it should reimpose any regulatory requirements which it has modified, suspended, or reduced under this section. If the Commission finds, after notice and an opportunity for hearing, and after considering the factors identified in this section, that the public is not sufficiently protected, the Commission may reimpose any regulatory provisions that the Commission deems necessary. Pending any final order, the Commission may reimpose any regulatory requirements on a temporary basis as it determines is just and reasonable. If the federal government allows states to regulate cable television rates, the Commission shall reimpose any regulatory provisions modified, reduced, or suspended pursuant to this section. (Added 2005, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 517. Line extensions
(a) A company may enter into agreements under this section with government, nonprofit, or private entities, including projects authorized or affiliated with the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, a municipality or fire district pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2601, or a regional aggregation and deployment project, to satisfy cable television line extension requirements.
(b) Upon petition of a company, the Commission shall modify the line extensions that a company would otherwise be required to construct if the company agrees to undertake alternative actions, including the extension of facilities that support alternative technologies for delivering broadband to users. Copies of the petition shall be filed with the Department and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority. The Commission shall approve such alternative methods of satisfying line extension requirements after notice and opportunity for hearing if it finds the petition promotes the general good of the State. In reaching its determination, the Commission shall consider whether the company’s proposal:
(1) is consistent with the activities and initiatives of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority;
(2) is likely to provide broadband access to a greater number of unserved consumers than would the foregone cable television line extension requirements;
(3) supports the expansion of broadband services at prices and service levels comparable to those commonly available throughout the State, but not less than the minimum technical service characteristics required by section 8077 of this title;
(4) provides a fair balancing of the benefits to the public compared to benefits realized by the company; and
(5) the modified line-extension obligations will not unreasonably affect the time at which customers to whom a company would otherwise be obligated to extend cable services will have access to broadband services.
(c) This section shall not apply to line extensions previously identified and planned for construction as of June 9, 2007.
(d) The Commission shall not require a company to overbuild another company, or provide cable television service to locations served by another company or to which another company is required to extend cable television service.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Commission may require the construction of cable television line extensions when a company receives a bona fide request for service from a reasonable number of verified customers or with reasonable contributions in aid of construction from customers.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the line extension construction obligation for additional miles identified in Paragraph 41 of Comcast Communication’s certificate of public good, granted by the Public Utility Commission, of September 27, 2006, may be modified only with the approval of the Commission. (Added 2007, No. 79, § 5a, eff. June 9, 2007.)
§ 518. Retransmission fees; reporting
(a) Purpose. The purpose of this section is to provide the Attorney General with information necessary to investigate certain conduct within the cable and broadcast network industries to determine whether unfair methods of competition are occurring in violation of 9 V.S.A. chapter 63.
(b) Reporting. Annually, beginning on January 1, 2015, each commercial broadcasting station doing business with a Vermont cable company shall report to the Attorney General any fees charged for program content retransmitted on the cable network under a retransmission consent agreement entered into pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 325, for the prior calendar year.
(c) Investigations. The Attorney General may investigate retransmission fees charged by commercial broadcasting stations, pursuant to his or her investigatory powers established under 9 V.S.A. chapter 63.
(d) Public disclosure. The information received by the Attorney General under subsection (b) of this section shall be kept confidential and is exempt from public inspection and copying under the Public Records Act, unless otherwise ordered by a court.
(e) Enforcement. A violation of this section constitutes unfair competition under 9 V.S.A. § 2453.
(f) Rules. The Attorney General may adopt rules he or she deems necessary to implement this section. The rules, as well as any finding of unfair competition with regard to retransmission consent fees, shall not be inconsistent with the rules, regulations, and decisions of the Federal Communications Commission and the federal courts interpreting the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. (Added 2013, No. 190 (Adj. Sess.), § 29, eff. June 16, 2014; amended 2015, No. 41, § 15, eff. June 1, 2015.)