SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that will encourage cable TV competition by allowing new video service providers to enter the Illinois market without having to negotiate separate franchise agreements with each municipality. Senate Bill 678, sponsored by State Sen. James Clayborne (D-Belleville) and State Rep. James Brosnahan (D-Oak Lawn), includes more consumer protections than in any other state that has enacted similar legislation, including California, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and Texas.
“When there’s competition in the marketplace, prices go down and consumers have more options. Under this new law, consumers in Illinois will now have more providers to choose from for cable TV service, and cable companies will be required to provide more reliable and on-time service,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I would like to thank Senator Clayborne and Representative Brosnahan for their hard work in passing legislation that puts Illinois first in the nation in protecting cable TV customers.”
“This bill provides the strongest consumer quality standards in the nation,” said Sen. Clayborne. “Residents of Illinois will be given more options, which will give them quality service at a lower cost. In addition, it will enhance the quality of life and entertainment in Illinois, while providing more jobs and boosting the economy of the State.”
In addition to ushering in new competition and providing more provider options for consumers, the bill introduces a number of consumer protections. According to the legislation, cable companies must set service quality standards for installation, repair, appointments, telephone response, billing and collection, disconnection, dispute resolution, and services for people with disabilities. Companies must inform customers of these standards on an annual basis.
“Cable customers have a right to reliable service,” said Rep. Brosnahan. “SB 678 will bring about more competitive prices, better services and more options for cable customers. The service quality standards and the consumer protection provisions are the strongest in the country and the citizens of Illinois will benefit greatly.”
The bill requires that companies give customers at least 30 days written notice of rate hikes or program eliminations. Customers must also have at least 28 days from a bill’s date before the payment is due. Shutoffs are prohibited until 21 days after a notice of termination, and no termination fees are allowed. Customer requests for service termination must be implemented within a week’s time. New customers will have 60 days during which they can cancel service without incurring penalties, early termination fees, or installation charges. Contract terms can last no longer than one year.
In order to ensure prompt customer services, companies must maintain a toll-free customer line and answer 90 percent of calls within 30 seconds. Cable service must be installed within seven days, and outages must be repaired within 48 hours. Customers who receive poor service will be eligible for credits.
Senate Bill 678 goes into effect immediately, and the service quality standards for existing cable companies begin on January 1, 2008.