Article 6 Cable Television

Section 6.1: Definitions

In this Article unless the context clearly indicates that another meaning is intended, the following terms, phrases, words and their derivations have the meaning given herein. When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future, words in the singular number include the plural number. The word "shall" is always mandatory.

  • "Agency" means the Mayor and Town Council or the person, department, or agency designated by the Mayor and Town Council, by resolution, to act for them in administrative matters relating to cable television.
  • "Auxiliary services" means any communications service in addition to "regular subscriber services", including, but not limited to pay TV, burglar alarm service, data transmission, facsimile service and home shopping service.
  • "Cable Television System" or "CATV System" means any facility that in whole or part, receives directly or indirectly, over the air, and amplifies or otherwise modifies the signals transmitting programs broadcast by one or more television or radio stations and distributes such signals by wire or cable to subscribing members of the public who pay for such service.
  • "Channel" means a band of frequencies 6 megahertz wide in the electro¬magnetic spectrum capable of carrying either one audio-visual television signal and a few non-video signals or a large number of non-video signals.
  • "Federal Communications Commission" or "FCC" means the agency of the United States Government of that name as constituted by the Communications Act of 1934, or any successor agency established by the United States Government.
  • "Franchise" means an authorization granted by the Town of Forest Heights which permits the construction, operation and maintenance of a cable television system within the franchise area under condition not inconsistent with this ordinance.
  • "Franchise area" means that part of the franchise entity for which a franchise is granted under the authority of this ordinance and may or may not be coterminous with the franchise entity.
  • "Franchise authority" means the Mayor and Town Council of the franchise entity.
  • "Franchise entity" means the Town of Forest Heights, Maryland, as presently constituted and includes any area that may be added to it during the terms of any franchise granted under this Article.
  • "Grantee" means any entity, its successors, heirs or assigns that is awarded a franchise under this ordinance.
  • "Gross revenue" means revenue derived directly or indirectly by a grantee from both regular subscriber service and auxiliary services.
  • "Gross subscriber revenue" means revenue derived directly or indirectly by a grantee from supplying regular subscriber service; that is, installation fees, disconnect and reconnect fees, and fees for regular cable benefits including the transmission of broadcast signals and access and organization channels if utilized. "Gross subscriber revenue" does not include revenue derived from auxiliary services or from any taxes whether or not passed on to users, per program or per channel charges, leased channel revenues, advertising revenues or any other income derived from the system.
  • "Major stockholder" means a beneficial owner, directly or indirectly, of 10 percent or more of the issued and outstanding voting stock of any corporation.
  • "Person" means people, firms, corporations, associations or other legally recognized entities.
  • "Public way" means the surface of and the space above and below any public street, avenue, highway, boulevard, concourse, driveway, bridge, tunnel, park, parkway, waterway, dock, bulkhead, wharf, pier, alley, right-of-way, public utility easement, and any other public ground or water subject to the jurisdiction and control of the franchise entity.
  • "Regular subscriber service" means that service regularly provided to all subscribers, including all broadcast signal carriage, FCC-required access channel carriage including origination programming, but it does not include specialized programming for which a per-channel charge is made.
  • "Subscriber" means any person receiving regular subscriber service.

Section 6.2: Franchise Required

With the exception of the Mayor and Town Council, a person may not own, operate or solicit subscribers for any cable television system in the Town of Forest Heights, except by franchise granted by resolution of the Mayor and Town Council.

Section 6.3: Limitations of Franchise

A. Any franchise granted under this Article shall be non-exclusive and this Article may not be construed to prevent the franchise authority from granting identical or similar franchises to more than one person, within all or any portion of the franchise entity.

B. A grantee, at all times during the life of this franchise, shall be subject to the lawful exercise of the franchise entity's police power and such reasonable regulations as the franchise authority may promulgate hereunder. Nothing contained in this ordinance shall be deemed to prohibit in any way the right of the Mayor and Town Council to levy nondiscriminatory occupational license taxes on any activity conducted by a grantee.

C. All privileges granted by a franchise under this Article shall be subordinate to any prior lawful occupancy of the public streets, and the franchise authority reserves the right to reasonably designate where a grantee's facilities are to be placed within the public ways.

D. The franchise shall be a privilege which is personal to the original grantee. It may not be sold, trans¬ferred, leased, assigned, or disposed of, in whole or in part, either by sale, merger, consolida-tion or otherwise, without prior consent of the franchise authority expressed by resolution, and then only under such conditions as may therein be prescribed. Any such proposed transfer or assignment shall be made only by an instrument in writing, which shall include an acceptance of all conditions of the franchise by the transferee, a duly executed copy of which shall be filed with the agency within 30 days after any such transfer or assignment.

E. Nothing herein shall be deemed to in any way impair or affect the right of the Town of Forest Heights to acquire the property of the grantee, either by purchase or through the exercise of the right of eminent domain, at a price reflective of its fair market value as an ongoing concern, and nothing herein shall be construed to constitute a waiver or bar to the exercise of any governmental right or power of the Town of Forest Heights.

F. The granting of a franchise shall be based on the franchise authority's judgment as to whether it will serve the public's interest; the applicant's construction, technical and financial plans and arrangement and the benefits to the welfare and safety of the Town and its citizens. Such judgment shall be discretionary and no provision of this ordinance shall re¬quire the granting of a franchise. A franchise may be granted only after the Mayor and Town Council conduct a public hearing on the application.

Section 6.4: Liability and Indemnification

A. The grantee shall pay, and by its acceptance of a franchise specifically agrees to pay, any and all damages or penalties which the Town of Forest Heights may be legally re¬quired to pay as a result of grantee's installation, operation or mainten¬ance, of a franchise cable television system under this Ordinance whether or not the acts or omissions complained of are authorized, allowed or prohibited by the Town of Forest Heights.

B. The grantee shall pay all expenses incurred by the Town of Forest Heights in defending itself with regard to any and all damages and penalties mentioned in subsection A. of this section. These expenses shall include all out-of-pocket expenses, including reasonable attorneys' fees and the reason¬able value of services rendered by any employee of the Town.

C. The grantee shall maintain, throughout the term of the franchise, liability insurance insuring the Town of Forest Heights and the grantee with regard to all damages referred to in subsection A. of this section, caused by grantee or its agents, in such amounts as may be set forth in the franchise.

Section 6.5: Technical Requirements and Channel Capacity

Any cable television system constructed by a grantee shall be installed, maintained, and operated at all times in full compliance with the technical and channel capacity standards of the Federal Communications Commission. The results of annual performance tests conducted in accordance with Sec. 76.601(c), FCC rules (or such other section of the rules as shall incor¬porate its substance) shall be retained for at least five years and made available for inspection by the Town of Forest Heights.

Section 6.6: Safety Requirements

Throughout the term of the franchise the grantee shall:

A. Install and maintain its wires, cables, fixtures and other equipment in accordance with the requirements of the Town and County building, electrical, fire, health and plumbing codes, and in such manner that they will not interfere with any installations of the Town of Forest Heights; and

B. Keep and maintain in a safe, suitable, substantial condition, and in good order and repair, all structures lines, equipment, and public ways or places of the Town, wherever situated or located.

Section 6.7: Service Standards, Business Office and Resolution of Complaints

Throughout the term of the franchise, a grantee shall: 

A. Maintain all parts of its system in good condition and in accordance with standards generally observed by the cable television industry. Sufficient employees shall be retained to provide safe, adequate and prompt service for all of its facilities.

B. Maintain a conveniently located business office and service center to which subscribers may telephone without incurring added message units or toll charges. This office shall be open during all usual business hours, and be so operated that complaints and requests for repairs or adjust-ments may be received by telephone at any time when any television signals are being broadcast.

C. Dispatch personnel to investigate all service complaints and equipment malfunctions within 24 hours and strive to resolve such complaints as promptly as possible. Planned interruption of service shall be only for good cause. Insofar as possible, planned service interruptions shall be preceded by notice, be of brief duration, and occur during minimum viewing hours.

D. Maintain a complete list of all complaints received and the measures-taken to resolve them in form to be approved by agency. This list shall be available to the agency on request.

E. Permit the agency to inspect and test the system's technical equipment and facilities on reasonable (12 to 24 hours') notice.

Section 6.8: Limitation on Use of Personal Information

A grantee may not disseminate information to any person without the express written permission of a subscriber as to the name, address or other indication of the identity of that subscriber or any other information furnished by that subscriber in conjunction with a request for service. A grantee may not require of any person as a condition of receiving services from the grantee (1) consent to the dissemination of personal information, or (2) a waiver of any right granted under this section. The agency is entitled to audit the records of the grantee to determine compliance with this section.

Section 6.9: Conditions for Use of Public Ways

A. Any pavement, sidewalk, curbing or other paved area taken up or any excavations made by a grantee shall be done under the supervision and direction of the agency under permits issued for work by the proper officials of the Town or other appropriate governmental entity and shall be done in such manner as to cause the least inconvenience to the inhabitants of the Town of Forest Heights. The grantee, at its own expense and in a manner approved by the agency, shall replace and restore any such pavements, sidewalks, curbing or other paved area in as good a condition as before the work involving such disturbance was done, and shall also make and keep full and complete plats, maps and records showing the exact location of its facilities located within the public streets, ways, and easements of the franchise entity. These maps shall be available for inspection at any time during business hours by the agency.

B. The grantee, at its expense, shall protect, support, temporarily disconnect, relocate, or remove, any of its property when required by the Town of Forest Heights by reason of traffic conditions, public safety, road construction, change or street grade, installation of sewers, drains, water pipes, power lines, signal lines, tracks, or any other type of municipal improvements. However, the grantee, in all such cases, shall have the privilege of abandoning any property in place. If the Town of Forest Heights requests substantial relocation, it shall compensate grantee in the amount of its relocation costs.

C. The grantee, on the request of any person holding a building moving permit issued by the Town of Forest Heights or another government entity, shall temporarily raise or lower its wires to permit the moving of buildings. The expense of the temporary removal or rising or lowering of wires shall be paid by the person requesting it and the grantee shall have the authority to require that payment be made in advance. The grantee shall be given at least 48 hours' advance notice to arrange for such temporary wire changes.

D. The grantee shall have authority to trim the trees overhanging the public street so as to prevent the branches of such trees from coming in contact with the wires and cables of the grantee, except that, at the option of the Town of Forest Heights, the trimming may be done by another person under the direction and supervision of the Town of Forest Heights, at the expense of the grantee.

E. In all sections of the franchise area where the cable, wires, or other similar facilities of public utilities are placed underground, the grantee shall place its cables, wires or other like facilities underground to the maximum extent that existing technology reasonably permits.

Section 6.10: Indemnity Bond

Concurrently with the acceptance of its franchise, a grantee shall file with the Town a bond with an acceptable surety in an amount designated by the Town of Forest Heights to indemnify the Town against any losses it may suffer in the event the grantee fails to comply with any provision of this Article, its franchise or any duly promulgated regulation, order or resolution of the Mayor and Town Council or agency made pursuant to a franchise or this Article. Said bond shall be obtained at the sole expense of the grantee and remain in effect for the full term of the franchise or any renewal thereof, plus an additional six months thereafter.

Section 6.11: Franchise Fee

The Town of Forest Heights is entitled to collect a franchise fee in such amount, as may be from time to time established by the Mayor and Town Council, for each franchise granted.

Section 6.12: Acts Beneficial to Subscribers

The Town of Forest Heights may include, as part of any franchise, any conditions it deems beneficial to the subscribers in the franchise area including the regulation of any rates charged to such subscribers.

Section 6.13: Public Service Requirements

A grantee shall:A. Provide at least one service outlet to all municipal facilities, libraries and public schools within its franchise area at no cost to the Town of Forest Heights or to the library or schools involved; and

B. Make its facilities immediately available to the Town of Forest Heights on request during an emergency or disaster.

Section 6.14: Duration of Franchise

The Mayor and Town Council shall establish the duration of each franchise granted under this Ordinance and the conditions for any renewal thereof.

Section 6.15: Tampering and Unauthorized Connections

A. It shall be unlawful for any person, without the consent of the owner, to willfully tamper with, remove or injure any cables, wires or equipment used for distribution of televisions signals, radio signals, picture, program or sound within the Town of Forest Heights.

B. It shall be unlawful for any person to make or use any unauthorized connection, whether physically, electrically, acoustically, inductively or otherwise, with any part of a franchised cable television system within the Town of Forest Heights for the purpose of enabling that person or others to receive any televisions signal, radio signal, picture, program or sound, without authorization of the grantee and owner of that system.

Section 6.16: Continued Use of Individual Antennas Protected

This Article does not prohibit the erection or continued use of individual television antennas or require any person to receive cable television service or connect with a cable television system.

Section 6.17: Delegation of Powers

The Mayor and Town Council may delegate any right, benefit, duty, obligation or power under this ordinance to the agency or any employee, officer or department of the Town of Forest Heights.

Section 6.18: Enforcement

A. The Mayor and Town Council shall have the authority to promulgate by resolution such regulations as are necessary to implement, administer and enforce this Article and any franchise granted hereunder.

B. The grantee is not relieved of its obligation to comply promptly with the provisions of a franchise because of a failure of the franchise authority to enforce prompt compliance.

C. The cost of any litigation, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred by the franchise authority to enforce this Article or a franchise granted under this Article shall be reimbursed to the franchise authority by the franchiser if the franchise authority is the prevailing party.

Section 6.19: Forfeiture of Franchise

A. In addition to the rights and powers of the Town of Forest Heights contained in any franchise, the Town shall have the right to terminate and cancel a franchise if the grantee: 

(1.) Refuses to obey any duly promulgated regulation, order or resolution of the Mayor and Town Council or agency made pursuant to a franchise or this Article.

(2.) Becomes insolvent unable or unwilling to pay its debts or is adjudged as bankrupt.

(3.) Attempts to evade any of the provisions of a franchise or practices any fraud or deceit upon the Town.

B. Before any franchise may be terminated or canceled under this section, the grantee shall be entitled to a hearing before the Mayor and Town Council. The grantee shall be given not less than five days written notice that a hearing under this section will be held.

Section 6.20: Penalty

Any person, including an officer or employee of a grantee, violating the provisions of this Article or a franchise agreement granted under this Article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, on conviction, be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100), be imprisoned for not more than thirty days or both. A conviction for one offense shall not be a bar to a conviction for a continuation of such offense subsequent to the first or any succeeding conviction.