ACA: Repair Program Access Before Redefining OVDs

Says FCC Needs to Fix Definition of NCTC First

American Cable Association president Matthew Polka grabbed some face time with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler at the COMPTEl show in Dallas last week to talk about closing a "loophole" in the program access rules before trying to extend those rules to over-the-top providers.

Polka was responding to the news, first reported by Multichannel News/B&C that the FCC is working on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would propose defining linear OVD's as multichannel video providers.

But Polka argued that before the FCC takes on that big issue, it extend program access protections to the National Cable Television Cooperative, which negotiates programming deals for more than 900 small and medium-sized MVPD's--ACA represents those smaller operators.

Currently the FCC's definition of a buying group excludes NCTC and ACA has been pushing for years to correct that. In 2012, the FCC launched a rulemaking and tentative conclusion that NCTC should be defined as a buying group.

So, before the FCC defines some OVDs as MVPDs Polka wants it to define NCTC as a buying group.

"Fairness counsels that before the Commission spends time and resources expanding the scope of the program access rules in an unprecedented manner, it should take action to ensure that entities Congress explicitly intended to use the rules are in fact able to do so," said Polk," according to an ex parte filing with the commission about the conversation. "ACA believes it is imperative for the Commission to conclude its long-pending program access rulemaking and ensure buying groups for smaller MVPDs have the legal protections Congress wanted for them."

Polka also took the opportunity to push for conditions on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger and argued that if the FCC is going to put no blocking and commercially reasonable discrimination rules on ISPs, it should not leave edge providers free "to block or discriminate in ways equally or more harmful to the openness."