The American Cable Association wants the FCC to consider getting rid of must-carry rules, saying that would help advance broadband deployment.
Broadcasters are already facing a spectrum-reclamation push rooted in the FCC's national broadband plan. But ACA, which is currently battling some broadcasters over retransmission-consent issues, told the FCC that the government's interest in rollout of high-speed Internet might also be served by "a comprehensive review of whether the must-carry rules and regulations still serve the public interest."
In a Dec. 11 letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, ACA president Matt Polka suggested that since a number of existing rules are on the table in the broadband review, the must-carry rules should be there too.
Cable operators have long argued that the must-carry rules, which require them to carry a broadcast signal if a station elects not to pursue retransmission consent deals, is a government thumb on the scale of those negotiations and one that reduces the bandwidth they have available for other services.
"Such a review [of must-carry] would be particularly timely now given that an easing or removal of these carriage obligations would free up bandwidth on cable systems that operators could re-purpose for broadband," Polka argues. "Using the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, cable operators could offer Internet speeds as fast as 100 Mbps with minimal upgrades to their existing plants through a process called channel bonding. However, channel bonding requires a minimum of four analog channels to be set aside for broadband service, which is approximately the number of stations in a television market that cable systems carry pursuant to the must-carry rules."
ACA's letter came as the National Association of Broadcasters urged stations to take to the airwaves to portray the broadband plan's potential designs on their spectrum as a direct assault on free over-the-air TV.