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Independent Cable Pledges To Keep Rural America In The Broadband Vanguard


NATIONAL HARBOR, MD., April 21, 2010 -- At the American Cable Association's 17th Annual Summit, independent cable operators pledged to stay on the path of providing first-class communications services to rural communities in addition to seeking appropriate safeguards to ensure that dominant providers can't use their economic clout and regulatory advantages to discriminate against smaller providers.

"No one understands the communications needs of rural Americans better than ACA members, who remain highly motivated to meet the challenges of broadband deployment in remote locations where operating costs are high, population density is low and a healthy return on invested capital can take a bit longer," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

In his Summit remarks, Rep. Bark Stupak (D-Mich.), who is retiring at the end of this Congress, took time to highlight the vital role independent cable operators play in  sparsely populated regions, including his own 31-county district that includes Michigan's entire Upper Peninsula and the northern tier of the Lower Peninsula.

"It has been said that independent cable is a product of rural America. And for independent rural Americans, cable has provided us with a plethora of services including broadband service, for more than a decade.  It is critically important that ACA continues to be a strong, effective voice in the national dialogue on telecommunications policy," Stupak said Tuesday.

Also yesterday, various panel discussions included senior staff members from the House and Senate as well as the Federal Communications Commission, all of whom acknowledged ACA's growing influence in public policy circles, whether the topic is Universal Service Fund (USF) reform, retransmission consent reform, the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, pole attachment fees or set-top box regulations.

In a keynote address, FCC National Broadband Plan executive director Blair Levin saluted ACA for crafting major policy proposals that were incorporated into the plan's blueprint to reform the USF, which subsidizes phone service for rural consumers. Among other things, ACA's plan called for directing USF support to broadband providers without expanding the overall size of the $4.4 billion High Cost fund.

"The plan benefited from your participation in the process. You provided keen insights into unintended consequences to competition under the current system," Levin said. Levin added that ACA also contributed by documenting that unreasonable pole attachment fees had a negative impact on rural broadband deployment.

The three-day Summit concluded today with visits to 147 Capitol Hill offices to explain ACA's position on many of the subjects discussed at Tuesday's daylong policy forum. With major decisions affecting small cable providers pending in Washington, D.C., attendance at this year's Summit was strong as the event drew 285 attendees and 164 cable industry companies, including operators, programmers and equipment vendors.

During the months ahead, Polka said the trade group would devote ample time and funds to rigorous participation in the retransmission consent reform debate at the FCC and the review of the Comcast-NBCU transaction at both the FCC and the Department of Justice.

"Because those are two big-ticket items, ACA's leadership has dedicated the resources necessary to ensure that our positions are presented to, and addressed by, the key lawmakers and regulators who will decide whether new retransmission consent rules are needed and whether to apply stringent conditions on the Comcast-NBC Universal transaction," Polka said.

About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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