ACA: Programming Costs Are Sec. 706 Barrier

Says FCC Should Use Authority to Reform Retrans, Access

The American Cable Association has told the Federal Communications Commission that to meet its Sec. 706 requirement to promote advanced communications to all Americans, the agency should reform the video programming marketplace, where "excessive costs" can inhibit the ability of the ACA's smaller and medium-sized members to provide that advanced telecom buildout.

That came in comments to the FCC on its most recent Sec. 706 report on broadband competition. Having concluded in the report that ISPs are not building out high-speed broadband in a reasonable and timely fashion, the FCC also asked for input on how to boost that deployment per its statutory mandate and remove barriers to investment.

The ACA argued that "excessive and increasing costs for video programming" is one of the barriers to infrastructure investment.

“It has become evident that the increasing prices video programmers and broadcasters charge multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) can act as a drag on broadband deployment," said ACA president/CEO Matt Polka. "If these prices continue their upward spiral, existing providers of both broadband and MVPD services and new entrants will be deterred from expanding their broadband networks or otherwise undertaking new builds."

The ACA said to remove that programming cost barrier, the FCC could and should take a number of actions.

Those include updating its program-access rules to ensure that buying cooperatives -- like the National Cable Television Cooperative -- can bring program-access complaints, preventing retrans blackouts. It also said and that withholding online video content as part of linear broadcast retrans disputes is a per se violation of the obligation of both parties to negotiate in good faith.

They are all asks ACA has been making in the context of other proceedings, but the association is not missing the opportunity to leverage the Sec. 706 report, and is asking the FCC to flex its Sec. 706 muscle.

"The Commission already has authority under the Communications Act to provide this relief, but because high video programming costs have real potential to harm broadband deployment, the commission can also employ its Section 706 authority to support its legal and policy case for prompt action," ACA said in its filing.