Blackburn Bill Would Strip FCC’s 70/70 Authority

Consumer Freedom of Choice in Cable Act to Be Introduced Wednesday or Thursday

Tennessee House Republican Marsha Blackburn will introduce a bill Wednesday or Thursday, the Consumer Freedom of Choice in Cable Act, to strip the Federal Communications Commission's authority to regulate cable under the 70/70 market-power threshold.

Blackburn announced the bill at a House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, where FCC chairman Kevin Martin and the other commissioners were testifying.

The commission voted last week to collect more data from the cable industry rather than concluding, as it had in its initial video-competition-report draft, that cable had met the 70% household penetration/70% subscriber figure that could trigger regulation in the name of program diversity and per a 1984 law.

But the commission still left open the possibility of reviving that conclusion if the data supported it -- it had relied for the earlier conclusion on data from a single source that had been since called into question.

Blackburn said at the hearing that Martin's "decision to dust off Section 612(g) authority calls into question whether the '70/70' rule is relevant in today's modern, highly competitive world of subscription television.”

She suggested that it was not, calling it "anachronistic at best and potentially dangerous at worst."