ACA to FCC: Attention Must Be Paid

Group Says Video Competition Report Should Drill Down into Small System Closures

Small cable operators want the FCC to make sure when it considers the state of competition in its next marketplace report, it get a better handle on who is no longer around to compete.

In comments on the FCC's next video competition report, the American Cable Association asked the agency to do a more "granular" analysis on the increase in small cable operators who have had to close their doors.

"The FCC has data showing that the number of cable systems has significantly decreased over the past five years," said ACA President/CEO Matt Polka. "ACA believes that this trend reveals significant problems in the market for the delivery of video programming, particularly for smaller multichannel video programming distributors serving smaller markets and rural areas," said Polka.

The FCC data, according to ACA, shows that since October 2005, the number of cable systems has declined 26% from 7,208 to 5,312, and that for the smallest systems -- those under 10,000 subs -- that percentage drop is even greater. 

Citing National Cable Television Cooperative data over the past five years, ACA noted that 793 small and rural cable system members serving a total of more than 35,000 customers have closed, most because they ceased service rather than, say, consolidating operations.

Together, according to ACA, the numbers add up to a decrease in smaller cable operators that the FCC should break out from its report on the overall decrease in systems, saying it could be a an early warning sign, the canary in the headend, as it were, of problems for larger systems.

Polka also said that no FCC video competition report would be complete without "all available data and information pertaining to the practice of coordinated retransmission consent negotiations by non-commonly owned TV stations operating in the same market."