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Smaller Cable Operators Focus on More Choices for Consumers in FCC Filing

Abuse of Market Power and Uneven Playing Field Hurt Public Interest, Delay Rural Broadband

PITTSBURGH, PA., January 4, 2008 —In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today, the American Cable Association (ACA) urged the FCC to adopt news rules that would allow small and medium-sized cable operators the flexibility to provide consumers with more choices and better value. Representing 1,100 cable operators serving more than 8 million consumers, ACA’s comments came as part of the current FCC review of retransmission consent and programming tying arrangements.

“When broadcasters use federal retransmission consent rules to deny choice and raise costs, it’s the consumer that pays the price,” said Matthew M. Polka, president and CEO of ACA. “Likewise, it runs contrary to the public interest when programmers leverage their market power in carriage negotiations to force all consumers to take and pay for high-cost and niche programming to receive popular program channels. ACA appreciates the opportunity to suggest reforms that would help mitigate the harms caused by current wholesale programming and broadcasting practices. The issues of program carriage and retransmission consent are intricately linked to the flexibility that cable operators have in providing greater channel choice and value to consumers. Now is the time for the FCC to take action and ensure that a truly competitive video programming market will serve as a catalyst for consumer benefits, more diverse programming, and the deployment of broadband services in the digital age.”

ACA’s comments provide evidence that current programming and retransmission consent practices cause significant harm to the public interest in markets served by small and medium-sized cable providers through:

  • Reduced programming choice;
  • Higher prices for consumers;
  • Reduced video competition; and,
  • Impeded broadband deployment.

In its filing, ACA seeks adjustments to program access and retransmission consent regulations, including the following:

  • In addition to any bundling arrangements, obligating programmers and broadcasters to offer channels on a standalone basis on reasonable rates, terms and conditions;
  • Prohibiting programmers and broadcasters from mandating channel carriage on a specific tier or to a required percentage of subscribers;
  • Prohibiting price discrimination against small and medium-sized cable companies unless the differences are truly cost-based; and,
  • Adjusting the program access and retransmission consent complaint processes to provide for meaningful relief, including continued carriage of a channel while a complaint is pending.

“ACA supports moderate, but meaningful changes in wholesale programming and retransmission consent practices,” explained Polka. “We do not want to disrupt the programming chain, but simply want the Commission to constrain programmers and broadcasters from using their market power to deny more choices to our customers.”

About the American Cable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a national association of small, locally-based cable TV companies providing advanced broadband services primarily in rural markets. The Association represents smaller and medium-sized independent cable businesses through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C. ACA's nearly 1,100 member companies serve approximately 8 million subscribers in all 50 states. For more information, visit www.americancable.org.

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