The American Cable Association concluded its annual Washington, D.C., Summit on a high note as hundreds of ACA Members paid office visits March 15 to Capitol Hill and the Federal Communications Commission in a quest to accelerate adoption of new laws and policies that treat the independent cable community more fairly and remove anti-consumer regulatory preferences for broadcasters and other powerful media conglomerates.
"As always, ACA Members were upbeat and optimistic in making their rounds in the nation's capital to promote the update of old federal laws and regulations that, once updated, would help trigger more investment in some of the most economically challenging areas to serve in rural America," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "Retransmission consent and access to content on fair and reasonable terms topped the list of issues covered. I am positive that our message resonated with policymakers across the political spectrum."
ACA tallied 330 registered attendees from almost 60 ACA Member companies, who combined to complete 148 office visits with policymakers to spread the word on the need for bipartisan reform of important communications policies, led by the broken retransmission consent system that gives all the leverage to broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition.
"ACA believes that old rules governing new market realities need to be reviewed, hopefully in Congressional hearings this year. Broadcasters, for example, are colluding in local markets by jointly negotiating retrans in order to gain insurmountable bargaining power over ACA members and extract excessive fees from customers. Instances of collusion among same-market Big Four stations have jumped 28 percent in just two years," Polka said.
In addition to face-to-face sessions with lawmakers and regulators, ACA Members enjoyed many highlights over the course of the two-day event, including:
- A policy discussion with FCC Chairman Genachowski covering Universal Service Fund reform, CALM Act implementation and retransmission consent reform;
- A speech by Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who urged the federal government to invest in broadband to link rural America to the global economy. He also touched on his legislation designed to lighten regulatory burdens on small business by requiring greater accountability from regulatory bodies;
- Welcoming remarks by ACA Chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah, who pledged ACA's cooperation with efforts to modernize retransmission consent and find ways to help consumers who are facing sharply rising sports programming costs. Abdoulah also called for USF reforms that do not offer broadband support to entities in areas where they face competition from ACA members;
- Announcement of three additions to the ACA Board, expanding its diversity and leadership experience within a membership that includes traditional cable companies, phone companies that have deployed cable service, and competitive video providers that have seized business opportunities presented by market conditions; and
- A lively debate on retransmission consent policy between cable and broadcast industry experts, focusing on the lessons learned from negotiations conducted during the final three months of 2011 and ways to minimize consumer inconvenience when negotiations reach an impasse.
This year's ACA Summit, held March 13-15 at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C., was a unique opportunity for the leaders of companies that serve hometown America with advanced communications services to exchange public policy ideas with the Obama Administration, Capitol Hill lawmakers and senior FCC officials.
The ACA Summit stands as the most important forum nationally for honoring the critical role performed by independent cable operators that serve remote regions of the country with world-class voice, video and broadband Internet services.
The theme for this year's show was "Geared Up For Progress," underscoring ACA's firm commitment to finding consensus that leads to progress on many critical issues, especially retransmission consent, broadband deployment and access to content on fair and reasonable terms. To learn more about ACA Summit 2012, including access to the event's photo gallery, please visit: ACASummit.org