What You Need to Know About Forced Telecom Access in the State of Illinois

CHICAGO, IL, May 08, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — Recently, some national cable companies have been using a bullish sales and marketing tactic to force cable television installations into apartment and condominium properties throughout Chicago. They are leveraging confusion and ignorance of this little-known and dated law to force property managers into allowing them to install cable television services at the property. While this may be true to a very limited degree and unique circumstances, there are a few matters to consider before you let the behemoth providers knock down your doors.

An eligible [cable service] provider is any person or group who:
• Provides cable service over a cable system (owned by them or their affiliates)
• Otherwise controls, or is responsible for, the management and operation of such cable system

A cable service is:
• The one-way transmission of video programming to customers/subscribers
• Any customer/subscriber interaction which is required for the selection or use of such video programming

A cable system is:
• A set of closed transmission paths and associated signal, generation, reception, and control equipment
• Is designed to provide cable service
• Includes video programming
• Uses the public right-of-way (the use of some public space for a private purpose)
• Is provided to multiple customers/subscribers in a community

Under 55 ILCS 5/5/-1096, franchised Community Antenna Television (CATV) system operators must be given access to apartment complexes and condominiums by owners and property managers to install equipment, and they must be allowed to provide cable television service to residents. This means that owners or property managers must allow any eligible provider into their property to begin servicing the residents. Deviously, many of these providers are claiming that Internet services are included as part of this statute, which is the objective of most providers leveraging this particular Illinois law.

What must a cable operator do to force itself in?

For a “big box” cable operator to take advantage of the Illinois law, a few things need to happen first:
• They must be requested by an occupant, tenant, or lessee who requests the delivery of cable television services
• They must provide notice of its intent to install
• They must pay for and install all infrastructure required to provide such cable services (preventing the provider from utilizing any property-owned infrastructure, such as horizontal home-run wiring)
• They must have an active franchise for the region in which the building resides (including, but not limited to, RCN, Xfinity/Comcast)
• They must pay any reasonably requested compensation to the owner of the building
• They must protect the owner from any liability as a result of damage during installation
• They must submit installation plans (for buildings with 12 or more units), specifically “including the proposed location of coaxial cable.” (suggesting that under such statute, the provider must utilize coaxial cable)

In the end, if the “big box” cable company complies with all the above, then they can force a property to let them install and operate a cable television system.

What should property owners and managers do?
• They should tell the bullies that they cannot sell Internet, even if it can be delivered over the same system
• They may only be able to force television service under this statute (this question is still unlitigated, so it is possible that a court could disagree)
• Push back! These large telecom companies don’t want to deal with compliance headaches and likely won’t try to force their way in if the owners and managers resist, even in the slightest

The information provided in this press release does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available in this release are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this press release should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this press release should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this release without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein, and your interpretation of it, is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.

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