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Cable regs top FCC’s media agenda - Broadcasting & Cable

Cable regs top FCC’s media agenda

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Now that the Federal Communications Commission has completed its review of
broadcast-ownership rules, cable rules are moving to the top of its
agenda.

Chairman Michael Powell is reviewing a Media Bureau plan to replace the 30%
limit on one company's share of U.S. multichannel subscribers.

Unless Powell asks the bureau to rewrite the plan, it will soon be circulated
to the other commissioners for a vote.

Sources have received little indication of what new level the bureau is
recommending, although a rumor in December pegged the new number at 45%.

The old ownership cap was thrown out by federal appeals judges in 2001.

Decision on whether cable and telephone broadband service should be subject
to rules to prevent content discrimination by carriers will be submitted to
commissioners "fairly soon," Ferree said.

First, a Media Bureau plan on cable broadband, already completed, must be
compared with the Wireline Bureau's plan for telephone broadband, still in the works,
to ensure intellectual consistency.

"That doesn’t mean the two pipes will be regulated identically," Ferree
cautioned.

Another outstanding proceeding -- whether to approve a cable-industry/manufacturer agreement on plug-and-play set standards -- will not likely
see light of day until fall despite demands from both sides to get standards
established in time for the 2004 selling season.

"If we miss another manufacturing cycle, we miss another manufacturing
cycle," Ferree shrugged.

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