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Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 (CCPA), Pub. L. No. 98-549. codified at 47 U.S.C. §551.


The Act was

the first comprehensive federal statute regulating the cable television industry. A stated, primary purpose of the legislation was "to assure that cable communications provide and are encouraged to provide the widest possible diversity of information sources and services to the public."[1]

The Act sought to establish a national policy concerning cable service; franchise procedures and standards; and guidelines for federal, state, and local authorities to regulate cable service; among other things. The Act imposed some limitations on franchising authorities' regulation of cable rates; in particular, the Act restricted regulation to only basic cable service for cable systems not subject to effective competition as defined by the FCC.


The Act incorporates the provisions of the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data of 1980, and as such provides a model of a comprehensive privacy statute.

Under the Act, cable companies must provide a written notice of privacy practices to each subscriber at the time of entering into a service contract and at least once a year thereafter. The privacy notice must specify:

It restricts cable operators from using their system to collect personally identifiable information from consumers without prior notice and consent, which must be granted either electronically or in a written format. The Act also prohibits disclosure of personally identifiable information to third parties without consent (except for government requests pursuant to court order, or disclosures necessary for the fulfillment of cable services). Cable subscribers retain the right to inspect and correct errors in the database.

A subscriber must be given access to the personal information collected about him or her, "at reasonable times and at a convenient place." The subscriber must be provided with a reasonable opportunity to have any errors in that information corrected.

A cable service provider must destroy personal information when it is no longer needed for the purposes for which it was collected (and there are no pending requests for access). It must take appropriate steps to prevent unauthorized access of customers' personal information for as long as it is held.

Subscribers have a private right for action if aggrieved by a violation of the CCPA, include recovery of actual and punitive damages.

The Act specifically applies to such "other services" as "radio and wire communications," so it should reach information on customers of cable broadband internet connections. The provisions of the Act do not apply to direct broadcast satellite (DBS) companies that provide functionally similar services.

States are not preempted from enacting laws that provide greater privacy protections than the CCPA.


  1. Caprotti v. Woodstock, 94 N.Y.2d 73, 721 N.E.2d 957, 699 N.Y.S.2d 707 (N.Y. Ct. App. 1999) (full-text).