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ACA Summit: Rep. Anna G. Eshoo Calls Retransmission Consent Fees “A Racket”

PITTSBURGH, April 3, 2014 - U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), a leading voice in Congress regarding the need to reform outdated retransmission consent rules, yesterday called the exorbitant fees demanded by TV broadcasters "a racket." Her remarks drew applause from the packed room of independent cable operators gathered in Washington, D.C., for the American Cable Association's 21st annual Summit.

Rep. Eshoo, the most senior Democrat on the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, shared how recently one company confided that it had just concluded its retransmission consent negotiations at a cost of $800 million dollars, and that it expects those costs to increase to a billion dollars in the next round. 

"This is serious money. Most frankly, I think it's a racket," Eshoo said in a question-and-answer session with ACA Chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah, who is Chairwoman of WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone.

Eshoo went on to call the ever-escalating fees and blackouts that increasingly result during these negotiations an "unsustainable business model."

She added, "Small businesses can't absorb these costs. They will have to pass these costs on to the consumer. The consumer is really screwed and tattooed," she added. "What put me over the top on the blackouts was when they withheld [online] content. I said to my staff, ‘Enough.'"

In response, Rep. Eshoo and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, introduced last December the Video CHOICE Act (H.R. 3719), which would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to respond to TV station signal blackouts waged against multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and allow consumers to buy cable programming services without subscribing to the service tier that includes only TV stations electing retransmission consent. If adopted into law, the bill would provide relief to consumers harmed by outdated retransmission consent rules that broadcasters relentlessly abuse, highlighted by a record number of TV signal blackouts and escalating price demands well in excess of inflation.

Eshoo had hoped to get similar provisions included in the House version of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

"I tried like hell to get it into STELA," Eshoo said, adding that the committee chairman thought the issue belonged in a re-write of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. "I'm not giving up on this," she added. "Hopefully, the Senate will consider this in its reauthorization of STELA."

The ACA Summit, taking place April 1-3 at the Grand Hyatt, 1000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C, is unique in that it highlights the special role that independent cable operators play in providing world class communications services to consumers in hometown America.

This year's ACA Summit coincides with independent cable's efforts on a number of policy issues, including broad action to update retransmission consent rules and ensure the ability of a buying group like the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) to avail itself of the pro-competitive program access rules.

As cable's premier event for smaller, independent and competitive cable operators, the ACA Summit is widely considered to be the best opportunity for small business owners that provide advanced communications services to advocate for change in direct exchanges with Obama Administration officials, Capitol Hill lawmakers and senior FCC personnel.

The 21st ACA Summit extends a long tradition as the most important forum nationally for honoring the critical role played by independent cable operators that serve rural and remote regions of the country that are typically much more costly to build out with advanced technology.

The theme of this year's summit - Our Time Is NOW! - underscores the important legislative and regulatory goals ACA and its Members are pursuing on Capitol Hill and at the FCC.

Please visit the ACA Summit 2014 website by clicking here:  ACA Summit.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 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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