Court Schedules Argument in Effective Competition Suit

Cable and broadcasters are on opposite sides
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has set oral argument for Nov. 10 in telecom regulators' challenge to the FCC's decision on effective competition.

The commission, with the strong backing of cable operators--the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and American Cable Association both intervened in the court challenge on the FCC's side--voted to reverse the rebuttable presumption and assume cable systems face local market competition--primarily given the ubiquity of DBS--unless telecom regulators or other challengers could prove they did not.

A finding of effective competition lifts basic cable price regulations.

Not surprisingly, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) opposed the move and sued the FCC.

NCTA and ACA, in a brief filed in support of the FCC, said the commission's decision to make franchise authorities petition to retain that regulation was a reasonable implementation of the Communications Act, was consistent with the relevant statute and squared with current market realities, and added that to retain the previous presumption would likely have been arbitrary and capricious.

The National Association of Broadcasters backed NATOA in the suit.

Broadcasters are concerned that deregulation of the basic tier, where broadcast stations must be carried, signals the "the potential disintegration of the basic tier of service." They are also generally at odds with MVPDs over the retransmission consent/must carry regime.

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