ACA Summit: Sen. Heller: Video Regs Need Reboot

Says Small, Midsized Operators Must be Part of Conversation
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Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said Wednesday that it made no sense that cable operators delivering video over a pipe into the home would be regulated while over-the-top providers are not.

"So, you are left with older companies regulated and newer, innovative companies unregulated. And they are doing, frankly, the exact same thing," he said.

Heller, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, drew applause from the small and midsized cable operators gathered for the annual American Cable Association summit in Washington when he said that the committee should look into outdated cable Act and 1996 Communications Act regs as part of a broader review of video regulation in general

He said that as the world barreled toward an all-IP future, he wasn't sure there was sufficient infrastructure to accommodate 200 million plus households streaming the Super Bowl.

What was the government doing about that? Not enough, he said, and pledged to try an correct that. It will be a tall order given that he is in the minority.

Heller said he would continue to push for FCC process reform, including cost-benefit analyses of regulations, making sure when the FCC does make a decision it doesn't do so "between midnight and 3 a.m.," and that the FCC runs any potential regulatory changes by industry first.

Heller had no answer to a question from the audience about whether broadcasters should be able to continue to "blackmail" cable operators through retrans negotiations. Heller said the issue was complicated and added that "everyone is unhappy. He did say that retrans would come up in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act reauthorization, adding that was as it should be. "I think we should have a broad discussion on the future of video."

Saying the Congress needed to factor the challenges of small and mid-sized operators continuing to provide competitive services into that equation, Heller said: "I don't think we can move this process [reviewing video regs] forward without having your voices heard. He assured them he was listening.