FCC Recertifies Boston to Regulate Comcast Rates

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The Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau has re-certified Boston to regulate basic rates of cable provider Comcast, a decision that comes only weeks before the National Cable & Telecommunications Association plans -- the MSO is its largest member -- holds its annual convention there.

But Comcast can stay that decision by seeking rate relief on alternate grounds, which it is expected to do.

Boston mayor Thomas Menino

"Comcast faces real competition every day in Boston from DirecTV, Dish Network, and RCN," said the company in a statement.

"With the amount of competition in the city, we expect to easily meet the so-called ‘Competing Provider' test, and we plan to refile as soon as possible as provided under the FCC Order. Importantly, Boston cannot re-regulate until the Commission acts on that filing. With the level of competition in the city, prices should be set by market forces, not by regulation."

The city had petitioned the FCC to revoke its finding of effective competition made back in 2001, saying the situation had changed.

The FCC agreed. It said that because overbuilder RCN passed less than a third 32.1% of the Boston market and had no plans to expand were decisive in determining that there was not effective competition from that overbuilder.

Comcast had argued that combining RCN with the two satellite providers met the FCC test of at least 15% subscription to an alternative service, but the FCC said that was a new argument and that its procedures do not allow for it to consider that new evidence, as it were, but only the basis for the original decertification.

The agency did say it would entertain a new relief request from Comcast based on those grounds, and that so long as it files that request within 30 days of the release of the opinion and order, which came out today (April 9), it will stay the city's ability to reregulate rates pending the outcome of that request.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (pictured) filed the petition for basic cable rate re-regulation at the FCC back in May, citing three Comcast rate increases in the city and what he said was a lack of competition. The most recent increase came Feb. 19.

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