47 CFR § 76.975 - Commercial leased access dispute resolution.
(a) Any person aggrieved by the failure or refusal of a cable operator to make commercial channel capacity available in accordance with the provisions of Title VI of the Communications Act may bring an action in the district court of the United States for the Judicial district in which the cable system is located to compel that such capacity be made available.
(1) Any person aggrieved by the failure or refusal of a cable operator to make commercial channel capacity available or to charge rates for such capacity in accordance with the provisions of Title VI of the Communications Act, or our implementing regulations, §§ 76.970 and 76.971, may file a petition for relief with the Commission. Persons alleging that a cable operator's leased access rate is unreasonable must receive a determination of the cable operator's maximum permitted rate from an independent accountant prior to filing a petition for relief with the Commission.
(2) Parties to a dispute over leased access rates shall have five business days to agree on a mutually acceptable accountant from the date on which the programmer provides the cable operator with a written request for a review of its leased access rates. Parties that fail to agree on a mutually acceptable accountant within five business days of the programmer's request for a review shall each be required to select an independent accountant on the sixth business day. The two accountants selected shall have five business days to select a third independent accountant to perform the review. Operators of systems subject to small system relief shall have 14 business days to select an independent accountant when an agreement cannot be reached. For these purposes, systems subject to small system relief are systems that either:
(ii) Have been granted special relief.
(3) The final accountant's report must be completed within 60 days of the date on which the final accountant is selected to perform the review. The final accountant's report must, at a minimum, state the maximum permitted rate, and explain how it was determined without revealing proprietary information. The report must be signed, dated and certified by the accountant. The report shall be filed in the cable system's local public file.
(4) If the accountant's report indicates that the cable operator's leased access rate exceeds the maximum permitted rate by more than a de minimis amount, the cable operator shall be required to pay the full cost of the review. If the final accountant's report does not indicate that the cable operator's leased access rate exceeds the maximum permitted rate by more than a de minimis amount, each party shall be required to split the cost of the final accountant's review, and to pay its own expenses incurred in making the review.
(5) Parties may use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes to settle disputes that are not resolved by the final accountant's report.
(c) A petition must contain a concise statement of the facts constituting a violation of the statute or the Commission's rules, the specific statute(s) or rule(s) violated, and certify that the petition was served on the cable operator. Where a petition is based on allegations that a cable operator's leased access rates are unreasonable, the petitioner must attach a copy of the final accountant's report. In proceedings before the Commission, there will be a rebuttable presumption that the final accountant's report is correct.
(d) Where a petition is not based on allegations that a cable operator's leased access rates are unreasonable, the petition must be filed within 60 days of the alleged violation. Where a petition is based on allegations that the cable operator's leased access rates are unreasonable, the petition must be filed within 60 days of the final accountant's report, or within 60 days of the termination of ADR proceedings. Aggrieved parties must certify that their petition was filed within 60 days of the termination of ADR proceedings in order to file a petition later than 60 days after completion of the final accountant's report. Cable operators may rebut such certifications.
(e) The cable operator or other respondent will have 30 days from service of the petition to file an answer. If a leased access rate is disputed, the answer must show that the rate charged is not higher than the maximum permitted rate for such leased access, and must be supported by the affidavit of a responsible company official. If, after an answer is submitted, the staff finds a prima facie violation of our rules, the staff may require a respondent to produce additional information, or specify other procedures necessary for resolution of the proceeding. Replies to answers must be filed within fifteen (15) days after submission of the answer.
(f) The Commission, after consideration of the pleadings, may grant the relief requested, in whole or in part, including, but not limited to ordering refunds, injunctive measures, or forfeitures pursuant 47 U.S.C. 503, denying the petition, or issuing a ruling on the petition or dispute.
(g) To be afforded relief, the petitioner must show by clear and convincing evidence that the cable operator has violated the Commission's leased access provisions in 47 U.S.C. 532 or §§ 76.970 and 76.971, or otherwise acted unreasonably or in bad faith in failing or refusing to make capacity available or to charge lawful rates for such capacity to an unaffiliated leased access programmer.
(h) During the pendency of a dispute, a party seeking to lease channel capacity for commercial purposes, shall comply with the rates, terms and conditions prescribed by the cable operator, subject to refund or other appropriate remedy.
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