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ACA Chairman Robert Gessner Outlines Independent Cable’s Broadband Principles

Rules Should Be Competitively And Technologically Neutral While Mistrustful Of Market Consolidation

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 2, 2016 - American Cable Association Chairman Robert Gessner, declaring broadband the future of independent cable operators, enunciated key principles to guide government oversight of the high-speed Internet access market that continues to display a remarkable degree of change and disruption.

Speaking to hundreds of attendees at ACA's 23rd Summit, Gessner spoke of how the organization has established key criteria that he viewed as essential to nurturing broadband's growth and development while avoiding harmful consolidation.

"Although traditional TV service remains important, broadband Internet is your future and ACA has established three basic principles to guide our advocacy regarding government involvement in the broadband Internet market," Gessner said.

Among other things, Gessner said:

  • Statutes and regulations should be competitively and technologically neutral. They should facilitate network deployments and be targeted to minimize any adverse economic impact on smaller providers and their subscribers;
  • Market consolidation and concentration that would harm consumers or competition should be prevented; and
  • Smaller providers should not be unreasonably disadvantaged. They should be protected from undue market power, unfair or deceptive acts or practices, or other actions contrary to the public interest.

Gessner, President of MCTV Cable in Massillon, Oh., and ACA's Chairman since 2014, said he was pleased to relate a pair of Federal Communications Commission decisions last year that demonstrate the federal government is responding to ACA's advocacy.

First, the FCC ruled that every cable operator in the country, large or small, is considered subject to effective competition and no longer subject to local price controls, confirming that ACA Members face robust competition from Dish, DirecTV and additional multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

Second, the FCC now requires Dish and DirecTV to pay a share of FCC Media Bureau regulatory fees. Dish and DirecTV will pay $4.1 million this year, and ACA is pressing for the amount paid per subscriber to increase over time until it matches the fee paid by cable operators.

"These victories teach us that while no one wins every contest, ACA must never be shy about asking for a seat at the negotiating table and making our concerns and interests clearly known," Gessner said.

Gessner said he was encouraged by the FCC's move to launch a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) into abuses MVPDs suffer at the hands of non-broadcast content companies. ACA, he said, intends to highlight the difficulties that ACA Members face in providing the services consumers desire, saying it was part of an effort to educate policymakers that the rapid rise in TV prices and the lack of choice demanded by consumers are caused by large content companies, not MVPDs.

"We are joined in this effort by minority and independent program networks, who also struggle under the heavy yoke of massive price increases, forced bundling and penetration guarantees," Gessner said.

Looking ahead, Gessner stressed that ACA's has no shortage of challenges. He mentioned that the FCC has imposed Title II common carrier regulation on all broadband access providers, representing a big shift in policy that ACA is fighting in court.

Gessner also mentioned the outdated retransmission consent rules that have sent fees to TV station owners soaring. He praised the FCC for looking at whether TV stations are complying with rules that require them to bargain in good faith.

"This issue is ripe for action. It is time for the FCC to recognize that TV stations are taking advantage of their market power and ineffective good faith rules. Reforms are necessary, and ACA's proposals are narrowly tailored to address these problems in the market," he said.

Gessner also addressed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's initiative to "unlock the box" and require new technical mandates to open all set-top boxes to third-party use.

"ACA thinks this proposal is horribly misguided. It would inappropriately insert the government into a market teeming with participants, innovation and tens of millions of satisfied consumers," Gessner said.

The ACA Summit connects small and mid-sized cable operators serving hometown America with the country's leading lawmakers and regulators as well as media representatives who track communications policy in our nation's capital. This year's Summit coincides with important changes occurring in the regulatory arena managed by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.

This signature event highlights the unique role played by nearly 750 independent cable operators in providing best-in-class communications services to millions of consumers living and working in some of the most remote areas of the country. Responding to the critical broadband infrastructure needs of rural America, ACA Members put their own capital at risk to supply the solutions.

Created as ACA emerged as a lobbying force in Washington, D.C., the ACA Summit gives independent cable operators a vehicle for framing the issues in their own words during dozens of meetings on Capitol Hill. Over the three-day event, ACA Members speak with one voice in making their views known on the diverse and complex issues they face on a daily basis.

ACA Members know they "Hold The Key To Reform!" - the theme of ACA Summit 2016  -- just as they know that success will require persistence and determination in overcoming entrenched interests that keep a tight grip on their regulatory advantages.

The ACA Summit website includes all event details. Please visit the ACA Summit 2016 website by clicking here: ACA Summit. The event is held at the Grand Hyatt, 1000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 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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