Lathen Urges Exemptions for Some

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The Federal Communications Commission should consider asking Congress to
craft a new law that would allow some start-up cable competitors to escape
traditional forms of cable regulation, an FCC official said Thursday.

Deborah Lathen, chief of the FCC's Cable Services Bureau, said a legal change
might be necessary to ensure that Internet-service providers that offer video
service over phone lines do not become enmeshed in a range of cable rules.

'Perhaps we need to think about a legislative initiative that would allow for
some type of forbearance for the growth of these new services in [federal cable
law],' she added.

Lathen's proposal came during a two-and-a-half-hour FCC meeting designed to
give the four commissioners a sense of the regulatory landscape in the first
month of Republican chairman Michael Powell's tenure.

Lathen said the commission was not permitted to forbear from regulating cable
operators, although the agency has the power to lift regulations on phone
companies.

She added that the FCC needed the option to create a 'safe harbor' or 'some
type of moratorium' to accommodate new service providers that do not easily fit
within traditional regulatory classifications.

'Maybe we should just say, 'Go out there and have at it,'' Lathen said.

Daniel Brenner, senior vice president of law and regulatory policy at the
National Cable Television Association, said ISPs offering video were unlikely to
be regulated as cable operators because ISPs are classified as unregulated
information-service providers.

'By and large, [the FCC doesn't] regulate information services. They are not
cable services,' he added.

In addition, Brenner said, cable faces competition from video providers that
are not regulated as cable operators.

'There are multiple types of video providers that are not regulated [as cable
operators], from broadcasters to DBS [direct-broadcast satellite] to MMDS
[multichannel multipoint distribution service] to Blockbuster [Inc.],' he added.
'Some of them use radio communications, some don't.'

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