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4.20.22 – Louisiana Illuminator –

Customers who want a refund after severe weather knocks out their cable or internet have to contact their service provider and request it. A proposal that advanced Wednesday in the Louisiana Legislature would make those refunds automatic if the outage lasts more than 24 hours because of a state-declared emergency.

Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, said the onus should not be on disaster victims to contact their cable and internet companies. His Senate Bill 352 would place the responsibility on the providers to issue refunds without calls from customers.

Fields’ proposal would also place cable and internet service providers under the regulatory oversight of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which previously has not had any say-so over these utilities or the rates they charge customers. Cable and ISP companies typically reach franchise agreements with local governments through which their rates are set over the timeframe of the agreement.

Lauren Chauvin with LCTA, the Internet and Cable Association, opposed the bill before the Senate Commerce Committee. She said service providers refunded tens of millions of dollars to customers after Hurricane Ida last year in addition to spending hundreds of millions on infrastructure repairs.

“We oppose the new and burdensome regulation and requiring a whole new entity to be regulated by,” Chauvin said.

Cable companies need to hear from customers to address outages because they don’t currently have the ability to pinpoint them like power utilities, she said. There is also no way to distinguish a weather-related outage from when a customer simply unplugs their internet or cable connection, Chauvin added.

Senators representing areas hard hit by hurricanes in recent years said they supported the concept of the bill but were concerned its wording might not achieve Fields’ stated goals. Fields agreed not to advance the bill on the Senate floor if his colleagues would advance it from the committee.

There was no objection, and the bill was moved to the full Senate.