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ACA Applauds NARUC On Non-Discriminatory Access To Video Content

The American Cable Association commended the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) for adopting a resolution Feb. 16 that urges the Federal Communications Commission to recommend that the Section 706 Joint Conference examine the impact of fair and non-discriminatory access to video content on the deployment of broadband in rural areas by smaller operators.

"The resolution, introduced by Indiana State Utility Commissioner Larry Landis, sent a timely and important message to policymakers and the industry that fair treatment for small providers and their subscribers residing in rural communities across the nation is a critical public policy objective," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "Small operators forced to pay these discriminatory fees have less capital to spend on vital network improvements, forcing rural consumers and business to wait longer than they should for Internet access services needed to compete in the global economy."

ACA supports confronting this issue now before more damage is done to the competitive landscape. Without reasonable economic access to video programming, smaller providers may lose the means to continue to serve, and new providers will lack the ability to enter markets and extend the reach of their video and broadband services to unserved areas.

ACA plans to work with the members of the Section 706 Joint Conference to help them understand the extent of price discrimination in the marketplace and the impact that paying higher fees than larger operators has on smaller operators and their ability to deploy broadband.

The Section 706 Joint Conference was established in 1999 to fulfill the pledge of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires the FCC, as well as each state regulatory commission, to encourage the reasonable and timely deployment of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans. The Joint Conference provides a forum for conducting an ongoing, cooperative dialogue between and among state and federal regulatory agencies regarding the deployment of and the regulatory and deregulatory mechanisms that will facilitate the widespread availability of advanced telecommunications services. Commissioner Landis is member of the Joint Conference.

In comments filed last May regarding a petition requesting new FCC retransmission consent rules, ACA told the FCC that smaller pay-TV providers pay retransmission consent fees that are more than twice what larger providers pay for the same broadcast signals.

ACA explained that there is no meaningful cost-based justification for this disparity. Rather, it simply reflects the vast difference in bargaining power between ACA members and Big 4 affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX.

"Pervasive price discrimination against smaller cable operators raises costs for smaller-market consumers and impedes broadband deployment -- important public interest concerns the FCC must protect," Polka added.

The FCC has tentatively announced an intent to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend its retransmission consent rules at its March 3, 2011 meeting.

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