Experts: Keep On Lobbying

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Baltimore — As legislators concentrate on getting
home and getting re-elected, it is looking increasingly
unlikely that any major communications legislation
will be passed before the end of the year.

But that doesn’t mean Congress isn’t going to be influencing
communications policy — or that broadband operators
should stop trying to influence legislators, said a team
of lobbyists working for the American Cable Association.

At the annual Independent Show here last week, Rhod
Shaw of The Alpine Group said that while Congress might
not be passing any standalone bills, it could still block
Federal Communications Commission reclassification of
broadband as a Title II service by putting a rider on a budget
bill defunding implementation.

“What [FCC chairman Julius Genachowski] has to navigate
is, even if he gets three votes, whether he can withstand
what Congress can do as pushback.”

On the issue of retransmission consent, American Cable
Association president Matt Polka pointed to the “Dear
Colleague” letters that had been sent to Genachowski
asking the FCC to open a rulemaking on retransmissionconsent

He pointed out that members of the American Television
Alliance (ATVA) — which includes the ACA, Time
Warner Cable and telephone and satellite companies
— had been asking members of Congress to send those
letters, and encouraged his members to contact their legislators
personally to push the point.

Alpine Group’s Ansley Erdel seconded Shaw’s contention
that legislative action, in this case on retransmissionconsent
reform, is unlikely this year, “the opportunity is ripe
for influencing the outcome of the petition at the FCC.”

ACA’s voice has been growing in Washington, in part because
its longstanding complaints about retrans have been
joined by some larger operators and cable companies.

Shaw also pointed out the high-profi le retransmission
flaps at the end of last year, and said Comcast’s deal for control
of NBC Universal has amplifi ed the situation by providing
“crisis” points that allow for consensus — such as the
newly formed ATVA — to form around positions.