NCTA: Carriage, Access, Rate Regs Should Go

Supplementary filing in video competition report says 1992 Cable Act regs no longer necessary

Data from 2010 just adds to the growing body of evidence
that the multichannel video marketplace is increasingly competitive and that
any regulations adopted when it was otherwise -- as in the 1992 Cable Act -- now
need to be shown the door, as it were.

That is according to the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association's supplementary filing in the FCC's video competition
report, which says the FCC should tell Congress that the 1992 Act regs, are no
longer necessary to protect consumers or jump-start competition.

That means, says NCTA, that program access, program
carriage, and leased access rules are unnecessary. It also argues that the
remaining basic-tier rate regulation should go the way of the rest of the rate
regs, which were scrapped in the 1996 Communications Act rewrite.

The FCC video competition report is actually a catch-up
report covering 2007 through 2010. That report has been further delayed after
the FCC said back in April
that it needed more and better data, including adding 2010 to the mix.

But however you gather, slice or dice that new
information, cable operators are saying the result should be the conclusion
that there is a proliferation of competition that has made moot the concerns
that drove passage of the re-regulatory 1992 Cable Act,
which included that the cable industry was "highly concentrated" and
that that concentration was a barrier to entry of new programmers and voices.

"The amount and diversity of video content currently
offered to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection by program providers
unaffiliated with cable operators is staggering," said NCTA in its filing.
"And it is being viewed by millions of consumers on their computers, on
their wireless phones, and on their flat screen television sets."

Add in "fierce competition among MVPDs, two large
and ubiquitously available DBS companies, and the large incumbent telephone
companies - along with the much diminished amount of vertically integrated
programming," says NCTA, and it is a no-brainer that the marketplace is
competitive and the regs should go the way of the 30% cap on cable subs, which
the D.C. court threw out in 2009
saying the FCC had been arbitrary and
capricious in setting that limit and "derelict" in not taking
satellite sufficiently into account as a competitor.

The FCC's just-released future of media report gives that
proliferation argument some space as well, citing similar conclusions by
analysts. "In the view of industry analysts, cable continues to face
threats from the growth of satellite TV, Internet video services (including
free video websites such as hulu.com), the broadcast resilience, and the
introduction of Internet TVs, which give consumers the capability to watch
online content on a full-size TV without a computer," says the report in a
section on cable as a news and information outlet.