Washington -- The cable industry is reacting negatively to
a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission that could limit the right of
incumbent cable operators to sign exclusive contracts with apartment-building owners.
Under one proposal, the FCC is considering placing a cap on
the length of existing and future exclusive contracts between operators with 'market
power' and landlords.
The proposal is part of the FCC's ongoing attempt to
promote competition in apartment buildings between incumbents and new entrants, such as
wireless cable and satellite master antenna TV operators.
In comments filed last week, the National Cable Television
Association told the FCC that it opposed a policy that treated cable operators and their
competitors differently with respect to the length of exclusive contracts.
'There is ... no basis in law or sound public policy
for allowing alternative providers to obtain exclusivity while prohibiting incumbents from
doing so,' the NCTA said.
Saying apartment dwellers deserve more choice in video
providers, the Consumer Federation of America and the Media Access Project called for a
ban on exclusive contracts unless they are 'truly necessary.'
The FCC's contract proposal came on the heels of the
agency's decision in October to adopt rules that call for the speedy sale or transfer
of cable operator-owned 'home run' wiring when a building landlord has the legal
right to evict the cable operator.
The cable industry is expected to take the FCC to federal
court over the inside wire rules.
As part of the contract rulemaking, the FCC is also
considering adopting a policy that would call for the simultaneous sharing of home run
wiring by a cable operator and another broadband video provider.
The NCTA said the proposal was 'not technically or