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Overview of the Department of Telecommunications and Cable

Additional information about the department and its responsibilities.

Table of Contents

Overview

The Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR), which is part of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, was established under Section 1 of Chapter 25C of the Massachusetts General Laws and operates under the direction of a commissioner, who is appointed by the Governor.

According to its fiscal year 2017 annual report, DTC is responsible for regulating the telecommunications and cable industries in Massachusetts, overseeing industry compliance with laws and regulations, ensuring that the industries offer high-quality services at reasonable rates, working with telephone and cable providers to maintain and enforce consumer protections, and providing expert input to the Commonwealth. This report also states,

The telecommunications industry over which the Department has jurisdiction is made up of common carriers, including local exchange carriers, [long-distance] carriers, operator service providers, payphone companies, and cable companies. As of [fiscal year] 2017, more than 300 telecommunications carriers were registered with the Department and reported nearly $1.14 billion in intrastate telecommunications revenues for calendar year 2015. . . .

The cable industry in Massachusetts is comprised of 9 cable television providers serving over 2.19 million cable video subscribers in 308 of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns. . . . Cable providers reported more than $2.7 billion in intrastate cable revenues in calendar year 2015.

The state appropriation for the operation and administration of DTC is reimbursed using funds generated by assessments made against each telecommunications and cable provider’s intrastate operating revenue generated by the sale of cable television and telephone services in Massachusetts. DTC’s state-appropriated budgets were $3,051,062 and $2,933,926 for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, respectively. DTC is located at 1000 Washington Street in Boston and consists of four divisions: the Administrative Division, the Competition Division, the Legal Division, and the Consumer Division. As of December 31, 2017, DTC had 21 full-time employees.

Administrative Division

The Administrative Division provides administrative support to DTC for purchasing, accounts receivable and payable, human resources, budget preparation and management, information technology, and administration. The division is also DTC’s liaison with OCABR, including OCABR’s Budget and Human Resources Divisions.

Competition Division

The Competition Division provides technical support to the commissioner of DTC for the regulation of the telecommunications and cable industries in Massachusetts.

Legal Division

According to DTC’s fiscal year 2017 annual report, “The Legal Division staff serves as the chief legal advisor to the Commissioner and provides legal support to all Divisions of the Department.” The Legal Division is also DTC’s primary liaison with the Legislature, particularly the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The Legal Division’s primary duty is presiding over adjudicatory proceedings conducted under Chapter 30A of the General Laws (the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act) and DTC’s procedural regulations (Section 1.00 of Title 220 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations et seq.).

Consumer Division

The Consumer Division manages telecommunications and cable complaints for DTC. It is responsible for enforcing and monitoring compliance with Massachusetts laws, DTC regulations, and policies protecting consumers of telecommunications and cable services. In addition, the Consumer Division accepts consumer complaints for unregulated communication services, including Internet, wireless, and satellite service, to facilitate resolutions between consumers and providers.

Consumer Division Complaint Process

Consumer inquiries and complaints are received by the Consumer Division in person or via email, fax, telephone, mail, or Web form submission. The division evaluates these communications to determine the appropriate course of action (either to provide information or to open an investigation). If it is determined that an investigation should be conducted, the complaint is recorded in DTC’s consumer contact database. A DTC employee then prepares an email that includes a summary of the complaint, which is sent to the service provider. Consumer Division actions are also communicated to the consumers to advise them when their cases have been submitted to providers for research. If a provider’s response is not received within 15 business days, the DTC employee sends a follow-up email requesting a status. Once the provider representative has responded to DTC, the DTC employee updates the file and contacts the consumer to review the response and confirm any billing adjustments or refunds. The DTC employee also assesses the consumer’s satisfaction with the outcome. If the consumer is not satisfied with the outcome, under certain circumstances s/he may request an informal hearing with the Consumer Division or a formal adjudication that would be conducted by a hearing officer from the DTC Legal Division.

Consumer Contact Database

In June 2015, DTC migrated its consumer contact database to a new cloud-based product to better track, assess, and manage consumer complaint data and statistics. This product includes all aspects of information technology management of the infrastructure, including hardware, software, data security, data storage, and service management processes. With it, DTC can store and track consumer contact data, integrate services with other applications (e.g., Microsoft Outlook), perform its own reporting and analytics, and easily and securely add more users if needed.

Date published: June 18, 2018
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