ACA Calls on FCC to Reconsider Must-Carry Rules

American Cable Association argues that scrapping rules would free bandwidth and advance broadband rollout

The American Cable Association wants the FCC to
consider getting rid of must-carry rules, saying that would help advance
broadband deployment.

Broadcasters are already facing a
spectrum-reclamation push rooted in the FCC's national broadband plan. But ACA,
which is currently battling some broadcasters over retransmission consent
issues, tells the FCC that the government's interest in rollout of high-speed
Internet might also be served by "a comprehensive review of whether the
must-carry rules and regulations still serve the public interest."

In a Dec. 11 letter to FCC Chairman Julius
Genachowski, ACA President Matt Polka suggested that since a number of existing
rules are on the table in the broadband review, the must-carry rules should be
there too.

Cable operators have long argued that the
must-carry rules, which require them to carry a broadcast signal if a station
elects not to pursue retransmission consent deals, is a government thumb on the
scale of those negotiations and one that reduces the bandwidth they have
available for other services.
"Such a review [of must-carry] would be
particularly timely now given that an easing or removal of these carriage
obligations would free up bandwidth on cable systems that operators could
re-purpose for broadband," Polka argues. "Using the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, cable
operators could offer Internet speeds as fast as 100 Mbps with minimal upgrades
to their existing plants through a process called channel bonding. However,
channel bonding requires a minimum of four analog channels to be set aside for
broadband service, which is approximately the number of stations in a television
market that cable systems carry pursuant to the must-carry

ACA's letter came as National Association of Broadcasters urged stations to take
to the airwaves to portray the broadband plan's potential designs on their
spectrum as a direct assault on free over-the-air TV.