Eshoo Takes Martin to Task Over Cable Policies

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Defends His Treatment of Industry at House Hearing
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Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin defended his cable-regulation policies in a House hearing Wednesday after Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) peppered him with a list of what appeared to her to be anti-cable efforts.

She said she did not know what cable had done to enrage Martin but they needed to have a conversation about it, sounding like a schoolteacher telling a student he did not get along well with others.

Eshoo said she was troubled by a number of things, including the push for a la carte, "eradicating" exclusive contracts between cable operators and multiple-dwelling units and "slashing" leased-access rates cable operators can charge.

She said she thought Martin needed to work better with cable.

Martin countered that his efforts were consumer-friendly; that opening up apartments and condos to other providers, for example, helped minorities; and that the reason for the list of initiatives she cited was the "dramatic increase in cable rates compared to every other sector the commission regulates."

That and giving consumers more control over basic-cable content have been Martin's twin defenses of his cable policies.

"The reason why I am concerned about cable is that I believe consumers are concerned about cable: 80% of consumers say they think they are paying too much," said Martin, armed with a chart on those prices. "I believe we need to do something about the ever-expanding cable rates," he said.

National Cable & Telecommunications Assocaition President Kyle McSlarrow called Chairman Martin's chart on cable prices, which Martin asked to be entered into the record, the chairman's version of the American Express card because, "he never leaves home without it."

McSlarrow told the subcommittee that Martin' was in a "narrow sense" accurate, but as it was being used was  "false and deceptive" and that he would send a follow-up letter to the members to explain why.