Comcast Doubts Any New Cable Cap

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Comcast Corp. doubts that the Federal Communications Commission could gain court approval of any new cable-ownership limit because consumers face an abundant supply of video-programming services from noncable sources.

Noting that the FCC itself has recognized the explosion in video content, Comcast told the agency in a filing Monday, “It is difficult to see how the [FCC] could … find a real and nonconjectural situation where a single cable operator can unfairly impede the flow of video programming sufficient to justify a cable-ownership cap.”

In May, the FCC revived the cable-ownership issue. Four years ago, a federal court tossed out the agency’s rules, including one limiting a single cable company to no more than 30% of pay TV subscribers nationally.

After the Adelphia Communication Corp. acquisition, Comcast has told the FCC that it will control about 29% of all pay TV subscribers, putting the MSO close to the old cap.

Several consumer groups filed comments urging the commission to adopt a new cap somewhere between 20%-30% of pay TV subscribers.

The court also rejected an FCC rule that banned a cable company from filling more than 40% of its first 75 channels with affiliated programming.

In comments, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said the FCC should decline to adopt a new channel-occupancy rule because vertical integration (common ownership between cable systems and programmers) had declined while channel capacity had grown tremendously.

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