ACA Summit: Rep. Pompeo Hopeful On Rate Relief

Rep. Doyle, Though, Quashes Hope Of Major Reform
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Washington -- Two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee offered mixed views about how cable will fare in the limited legislation passing through Capitol Hill this year.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said that the bipartisan support for the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act is likely to accelerate the bill through his committee soon. “It may be the only good news I share you with his morning,” he said during an on-stage conversation with American Cable Association President Matt Polka at the opening session of ACA Summit, the independent-cable-company association’s 23rd annual policy summit and its 750 companies' membership visit to the nation's capital.

Pompeo said “legislators recognize the difference in costs associated with small businesses." The Small Business Broadband Deployment Act (here is the latest on its progress) would extend the FCC’s exemption of smaller operators from the FCC’s enhanced transparency requirements under new Internet neutrality rules.

He was less confident about any action on rate regulation, noting that there have been “more factors than I would have expected.” He cited the opposition of Democratic members on the committee, suggesting that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler “may not be telling us everything” he plans for the rate debate.

Pompeo acknowledged that the committee will continue its vigorous oversight of the FCC, saying that “we’re going to try to slow them down” on a variety of volatile topics. He said committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) “wants to bring new reforms to the FCC.”

But Pompeo, like Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who spoke later, acknowledged that the short legislative calendar remaining this year means that any substantive action is unlikely.

Doyle, whose district includes ACA headquarters in Pittsburgh, said that “as an optimist” he is hopeful that “we’ll be able to get something started” on communications reform legislation next year in the new Congress, but for now “it has lost steam.”

“It requires substantial commitment to get it done,” Doyle told Polka, and that is not in the cards for an election year.  

Meanwhile, Doyle promised to “keep pressing the FCC to clear up its definition of good faith negotiations” on retransmission agreements and other deals between cable and broadcast companies. 
Responding to Polka’s question about choice and competition, Doyle focused on innovation and access to services.

“If there’s not competition, if there are not choices {in platforms], then [consumers] don’t have access,” Doyle said.  He agreed with Polka’s point that small providers face barriers to innovation in their markets. 

The ACA Summit continues today and tomorrow at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington.