Press Release

Maine Residents Win in Court Decision Upholding State Consumer Protection Laws

August 3, 2021

Today, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced its opinion in NCTA v. Frey, handing a victory to the people of Maine. Maine law requires cable operators to place public educational and government channels (PEG) in their basic cable tier and on lower channels in the vicinity of broadcast stations. The law also requires cable operators to include channels in program guides and retransmit any HD channels in HD for the public. Maine also required operators to “extend cable service to areas that have a population density of at least 15 residences per linear strand mile.” NCTA attempted to have the law overturned in the District Court. When the District Court rejected their arguments, NCTA appealed. It has now lost this appeal.

Public Knowledge previously argued in an amicus brief that Maine’s law is not preempted by any federal law, statute, or policy, and that Maine has a compelling interest in ensuring that its residents have access to quality news and information, which includes both PEG channels and cable service more generally.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“Maine set out to make sure that viewers could easily access political, educational, and government (PEG) channels, and to ensure that Maine residents living in areas of moderate population density can actually access cable TV. The cable industry sued, concocting a number of arguments as to why these requirements were preempted by federal law, unconstitutional, or both. The district court and now the First Circuit rejected these arguments, upholding the law and recognizing Maine’s right and ability to promote the welfare of its residents.

“This is great news not only for residents of Maine, but also for people around the country. States have the authority to enact consumer protection laws and have stepped up to promote privacy, broadband affordability, and net neutrality, among other things. While the facts of each case differ, this case should give state lawmakers some assurance that industry lawsuits are often grasping at straws.”