NCTA Praises House Passage of STELAR

Calls It Modest Reform Benefiting Consumers; ACA also pleased
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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association praised the House's passage of the STELAR satellite reathorization Wednesday (Nov. 19) and pushed the Senate to follow suit, though it is unclear how easy that will be. The American Cable Association seconded that call for swift passage.

Cable operators had pushed for more retrans reforms in STELAR (or STAVRA as the Senate bill was called), but appeared satisfied with the product.

"Action today by the House of Representatives in passing H.R. 5728, the STELA Reauthorization Act, again demonstrates the bipartisan consensus around targeted and meaningful video reforms," said NCTA in a statement.

The bill passed unanimously with not a discouraging word heard from either side of the aisle. The bill was a compromise not only between House Democrats and Republicans, but with Senate members of both parties.

"In addition to extending expiring provisions related to retransmission of broadcast TV signals, this must-pass legislation accomplishes modest reforms of our video laws that will yield significant consumer benefits.  Eliminating the FCC’s Integration ban is an important recognition that today’s competitive video providers and their customers shouldn’t be held back by expensive technology mandates that offer no consumer benefit.  This legislation also appropriately protects consumers from anticompetitive harm by preventing separately owned broadcast stations in local markets from jointly coordinating retransmission consent negotiations. We urge the Senate to quickly act on this important consumer-friendly legislation.”

Sen. Ed Markey is said to be holding up STELAR legislation on the Senate side due to the inclusion of the integration ban sunset, which he opposes. If that opposition extends to the House compromise version, the bill might need to be appended to the continuing resolution that must pass to keep the government from shutting down.

The American Cable Association, which represents small and midsized operators, also praised pasage.

“ACA is very pleased that the House today passed the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014, a measure that would make key reforms to badly broken retransmission rules and burdensome CableCARD regulations," said ACA President Matt Polka in a statement. "This bill would, among other things, ban retransmission consent collusion by any same-market TV stations that are not commonly owned and do away with features of the Federal Communications Commission’s CableCARD rules forcing cable operator deployment of set-tops boxes (STBs) with a separate security module, a very expensive and unjustified government mandate.

“ACA urges the Senate to pass this bipartisan bill without delay and transmit it to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.”