FCC Gives Extension On Comment Deadline For 2007 Video Competition Report

Decided to combine the 2007, 2008 and 2009 'annual' reports into a single document

The FCC has given cable operators and others an extension of their deadline for commenting on the 2007 video competition report.

That is because the commission has decided to play catch-up by combining the 2007, 2008 and 2009 "annual" reports into a single document, it said in an order released Monday. It just issued the 2006 report last month. That report got caught up in the controversy over the FCC's tentative conclusion that cable had reached a competitive threshhold (70% penetration, 70% subscribership) that could justify new regulation. The commission said it needed to extend the deadline given the additional information it would be requesting about 2008.

The commission is considering a raft of new reporting requirements to help it better determine cable's penetration of the multichannel video market, an effort that has met with some resistence from cable operators.

The commission said Monday that the comments on its notice of inquiry on the 2007 report were no longer due Feb. 27 and that it would set a new deadline to sync with the one for 2008 information. The FCC did not say when the new comment deadlines would be, but did say it would do so as soon as possible.

One deadline for comment has been set. The deadline for Monday's order moving the comment deadlines: they are April 28 for comments and May 29 for replies.

In a separate action, the commission released its revised form for collecting data about broadband connections and phone service, and extended its deadline for filing the forms from March 2 to March 16. The data will help the FCC map broadband deployment. It is has been under pressure both in-house and from Congress to collect better data on broadband deployment and speeds. That pressure will likely be ramped up due to the economic stimulus package, which requires the commission within a year to come up with a master plan for connecting everyone in the country to the Internet.

The American Cable Association, which had asked for an extension, was pleased with the additional time. "ACA and its members were willing to report the data being sought by the Commission,” said ACA President Matthew Polka, “but there was a limit to how much of a burden small and mid-sized operators could bear.  We are pleased that the form is now available online, and the Commission has seen fit to grant operators more time.”

ACA, which represents mid-sized and smaller operators, had wanted a 120-day extension, but the FCC said it did not think the revised form represented a hardship for smaller files, or that they needed several weeks after they saw the form to file accurate data (though it has given them three-and-a-half weeks.)

The FCC also invoked the need for speed on gauging broadband buildouts, saying, "the public interest is better served by adhering as closely as possible to the March 2 deadline. Data collected by this agency will enable policymakers and industry to better understand where broadband is deployed so that they may make timely decisions as to how to promote further deployment," the FCC said.

The economic stimulus pacakge has made $7.2 billion in grant money available for broadband buildouts, charging the Commerce Department and USDA to figure out where where it should go and to whom, with help from the FCC.