A new law regulating cable television, which took effect on Dec. 29, provides the following guidelines:
Strips local governments of the power to set customer rates, beginning Jan. 1, 1987. Until then, cable companies can increase rates a maximum of 5% each year.
Prohibits municipalities from requiring cable firms to make special payments for local programming at the time franchises are issued or renewed.
Allows local governments to continue levying a 5% maximum annual tax on a company's gross profits.
Requires cities to determine that companies have not provided a "reasonable" level of services before terminating franchises.
What does the new law mean for consumers?
The most immediate impact involves cable television rates. Subscribers in any city could receive 5% hikes in each of the next two years and unlimited increases after that.