The Prince William County Government licenses and regulates three cable television companies operating within the County. There are no monopolies on cable television services in the County other than restrictions placed by individual developers in some neighborhoods that are part of homeowner's covenants.
As part of these agreements, Comcast, Gatehouse and Verizon have agreed to meet specific customer service standards for cable television services only. None of these franchise agreements allow Prince William County Government to oversee pricing, channels offered to customers, or packages available to purchase. The County also does not legally have any oversight or authority over high-speed internet or phone service providers, however there are federal and state agencies you may contact if you have complaints. Complaints involving any utility other than cable television should be directed to the appropriate authority.
What are franchise fees?
Federal law allows Prince William County to charge cable TV companies, like Comcast, Verizon and Gatehouse, fees for "renting" space in public rights-of-way. These fees are part of the negotiated franchise agreement between County government and cable companies. In Prince William County, the Franchise Fee is based on the cable company's gross revenue and the dollar amount of your monthly cable services. Last year, Prince William County received approximately $3.5 million dollars from Comcast in franchise fees. These funds go into the County’s general fund to pay for police, fire, schools, parks, libraries and other government services, including government and educational channels in the County.
What are easements and rights-of-way?
Cable Television companies are for-profit businesses that use public rights-of-way for a private purpose, in this case providing cable television, phone service and high-speed Internet services to consumers. Municipalities, like Prince William County Government, pay for building and maintaining the public rights-of-way. Utility easements on private property allow cable television providers like Comcast and Verizon, as well as other utility companies, to lay cable or fiber, or make any necessary repairs. All utilities routinely use these easements to replace, repair and upgrade their cables and fiber.
How do I know where my easements are located?
Often individual homeowners have questions regarding utility easements on their property. Almost every property has a utility easement. Utility easements are shown on the plat that you received when you purchased your home. If you cannot locate your plat, you can contact the surveyor or title company that handled the sale of your property. Neither the Courthouse or the County Government have copies of plats. Disputes between homeowners and utility companies about easements are a private property issue and are between the homeowner and the utility company. If you believe a utility company is operating outside of their easement, it is best to contact the customer service office of the utility company, or speak to a supervisor who is doing the work on your property.
What is the PEG fee that is shown each month on my cable bill?
The PEG (Public Education Government) fee is charged to cable subscribers by the company to support the government and education cable television channels that are part of the franchise agreements. The cable company then gives this money to the local government in the form of a grant for the purchase of cable television equipment such as cameras, lights, and editing equipment. The grant money is also used to purchase hardware and fiber for the County’s Institutional Network (INET). The amount of the grant is 1% of gross revenues and is shared with the Prince William County School System.
Can cable television companies put boxes and other equipment on my property?
The cable television companies are allowed to put their equipment in the utility easement. In most cases, each property owner has a utility easement on their property. If the box is outside the easement, the homeowner can request that the cable company move the equipment within the easement.