ACA: No Harm in FCC Effective Competition Change

Says Reversing Presumption Best Way to Meet Congressional Mandate

There is no statutory bar to assuming cable operators are subject to effective competition in their local franchise areas, doing so would not hurt broadcasters or PEG channels, and the FCC should at least reverse the presumption to small cable operators.

That is according to the American Cable Association's reply comments on the FCC's proposed rulemaking on effective competition. Under directions from Congress (in the STELAR legislation) to review the way it determines that cable operators should no longer be subject to basic-tier rate regulation, the FCC, citing the fact that it has granted virtually all such requests recently, suggested reversing the current presumption that they are not subject to that competition, which dates to before there were satellite operators with national reach and telco competitors.

"The factual record established in the NPRM and in the Comments clearly supports the Commission’s proposal to replace the old presumption that no cable system anywhere in the country faces effective competition with a rebuttable presumption in favor of effective competition," the ACA said.

It argued some smaller operators have not availed themselves of the process because of the expense of collecting the data and making the legal filing. The STELAR mandate was for the FCC to look for ways to reduce that burden and ACA says reversing the presumption is the best way.

The warnings by broadcasters and local franchising authorities that reversing the presumption would have dire consequences on broadcasters and PEG channels are without merit, the ACA said, adding,. "[T]he very fact that effective competition exists in the marketplace deters cable operators from making local programming less accessible or more expensive than it would be under the rules applicable to regulated systems."