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Home / Articles / Common Terms / Cable Mandatory Access Law
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10
March
2012

Cable Mandatory Access Law

19 States have enacted “Mandatory Access” statutes. In addition, and indeterminate number of local ordinances (for example, the City of Los Angeles, California) include Mandatory Access provisions. Providers and MDU owners are strongly advised to educate themselves concerning the meaning of any applicable Mandatory Access law affecting the owner’s legal rights.

In general, a Mandatory Access law includes, at a minimum, a prohibition on MDU owner blocking or restricting the ability of a franchised cable operator (including both traditional cable operators and telephone companies that have been awarded a video franchise) to provide cable service to residents of an MDU building.

As a typical (bare-bones) example, West Virginia Statutes § 24D-2-3 provides (in relevant part):

(a)  A landlord may not:

(1)  Interfere with the installation, maintenance, operation or removal of cable television facilities upon his property or multiple dwelling premises…

(2)  Demand or accept any payment from any tenant, in any form, in exchange for permitting cable television service on or within his property or multiple dwelling premises, or from any cable operator in exchange therefor except as may be determined to be just compensation in accordance with this article;

(3)  Discriminate in rental charges, or otherwise, between tenants who receive cable television service and those who do not.

The statute applies only to “cable operators” as defined by Federal law – that is, video service providers that utilize public rights-of-way.  This statute does not say or imply that the cable operator has a legal right to access or utilize any wiring or other infrastructure that belongs to the MDU owner; nor does the statute give the cable operator any on-site marketing rights, bulk service rights or any other right typically negotiated by the property owner in an access agreement with a cable operator.

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