The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) to the operator of a Florida cable television system for multiple violations of the FCC’s rules. The NAL proposes a $25,000 forfeiture for the system based upon violation of the FCC’s cable signal leakage standards, failure to submit the required registration form to the FCC, and failure to maintain operational Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) equipment.
During a 2011 inspection of the system, agents from the Tampa Office of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau discovered extensive signal leakage. In order to protect aeronautical frequencies from interference, Sections 76.605 and 76.611 of the FCC’s Rules establish a maximum cable signal leakage standard of 20 microvolts per meter (“µV/m”) for any point in the system and a maximum Cumulative Leak Index (“CLI”) of 64. Inspection of the cable system revealed twenty signal leaks, fourteen of which were over 100 µV/m, with the highest measuring 1,023 µV/m. In addition, the system’s CLI measured 64.88, exceeding the maximum permitted level of 64. The operator also acknowledged the system had not maintained cable leakage logs or performed routine maintenance as required by the FCC. The base forfeiture for these violations is $8,000.
The FCC also found two other violations. In 2010, FCC agents discovered the cable system had not filed its required registration statement with the FCC. In the 2011 inspection, the owner admitted the station had not submitted the required form, and, as of the date of the NAL, had still not filed the form. Section 76.1801 of the FCC’s Rules specifies a base forfeiture of $3,000 for failing to file required forms. Since the system had still not submitted the form more than a year after being instructed to do so, the FCC ordered an upward adjustment of the fine by $1,500.
In the same 2011 inspection, the operator of the cable system also conceded that the station had never installed any EAS equipment. Under Section 11.35(a) of the FCC’s Rules, cable systems must ensure that appropriate EAS equipment is installed and operational. The base forfeiture for not maintaining operational EAS equipment is $8,000. However, because the operator had owned the system for more than a decade without installing the necessary EAS equipment, the FCC increased the proposed fine by an additional $4,500.
As a result, the fine proposed for all three violations, including the upward adjustments, totaled $25,000. The NAL also ordered the director of the cable system to submit a sworn statement within 30 days confirming that the system had installed operational EAS equipment and had submitted the required registration statement to the FCC.
In a separate and unrelated proceeding, the FCC fined a Michigan cable operator $8,000 for failure to install EAS equipment at one of its headend locations. An agent from the FCC’s Detroit Field Office discovered during a 2010 inspection that the cable system had not installed any EAS equipment, in violation of Section 11.35 of the FCC’s Rules. According to the NAL, the manager of the cable facility indicated that the facility did not maintain any EAS equipment and that he “believed” this particular system had been exempted from the EAS requirements due to the limited subscriber base, which totaled 55 subscribers.
The field agent later determined that the cable system operator, citing financial hardship, had sought and received waivers of the EAS equipment requirements for some, but not all, of its cable systems in 2002. The 2002 waiver did not include the cable system inspected by the FCC. Citing the “vital role” played by cable systems in the national emergency warning system, the FCC levied the base fine of $8,000 against the cable operator.