1. Entertainment Connections, Inc. ("ECI") filed a motion for declaratory ruling pursuant to Section 1.2 of the Commission's rules. ECI seeks a ruling that it is not a cable operator required to obtain a franchise under Section 621 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, ("Communications Act"). The Commission issued a public notice seeking comment on ECI's motion. Numerous parties filed comments and reply comments related to ECI's motion.
2. Section 602 of the Communications Act provides that "any person or group of persons (A) who provides cable service over a cable system and directly or through one or more affiliates owns a significant interest in such cable system, or (B) who otherwise controls or is responsible for, through any arrangement, the management and operation of such a cable system" is a cable operator. Section 621(b) provides that a cable operator providing cable service must obtain a franchise from an appropriate government entity. Section 651(a)(2) of the Communications Act as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ("1996 Act"), provides that a common carrier may transmit video programming without obtaining a cable franchise if it provides common carriage of video traffic. In its Motion, ECI asserts that it does not fall within the definition of either a cable operator or cable system that must obtain a franchise as established by the Communications Act and the Commission's decisions. ECI contends that to the degree its signal is transmitted over a public right of way, it does so through the facilities of a local exchange carrier ("LEC"), and that the law does not require it to obtain a franchise under these circumstances.
3. ECI limits the issue in its motion for a declaratory ruling to whether it is required to obtain a cable franchise. We note that the issue of ECI's status as a cable operator has significant additional consequences under the Communications Act and Commission's rules, inter alia, mandatory carriage of television broadcast signals, nonduplication protection and syndicated exclusivity, cable television access and technical standards, and equal employment opportunity requirements. In addressing ECI's Motion, we are cognizant that a finding that ECI is a cable operator would require ECI to comply with all of a cable operator's statutory obligations.
4. We grant ECI's Motion for a Declaratory Ruling. Because it neither owns an interest in the facility that transmits its programming over the public rights of way, nor controls, or is responsible for the management and operation of those facilities, we conclude that ECI is a not cable operator as defined by the Communications Act and is not obligated to comply with the requirements of Title VI of the Communications Act.
ECI was originally joined in its Motion by Telecommunications Services Corporation ("TSC"). By letter dated January 20, 1998, TSC withdrew from the proceeding.
Section 1.2 of the Commission's rules provides that "[t]he Commission may, in accordance with section 5(d) of the Administrative Procedure Act, on motion or on its own motion issue a declaratory ruling terminating a controversy or removing uncertainty." 47 C.F.R §1.2.
Communications Act §621(b)(1), 47 U.S.C. §541(b)(1).
Communications Act §602(5), 47 U.S.C. §522(5).
Communications Act §651, 47 U.S.C. §571.
See Communications Act §614, 47 U.S.C. §534 (carriage of local commercial television signals); 47 C.F.R. §76.51-70 (same); Communications Act §614(b)(5), 47 U.S.C. §534(b)(5) (nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity); 47 C.F.R. §76.92-163 (same); Communications Act §612, 47 U.S.C. §532 (leased access); 47 C.F.R. §76.701 (same); Communications Act §632, 47 U.S.C. §552 (consumer protection and customer service); 47 C.F.R. §76.309 (same); Communications Act §634; 47 U.S.C. §554 (equal employment opportunity); 47 C.F.R. §76.71-79; 47 C.F.R. §76.601-30 (technical standards).