FCC Meeting Agenda a Mixed Bag for Cable


The Federal Communications Commission released the agenda for its Oct. 31 public meeting, and it is a mixed bag for cable, with proposals to extend the industry franchise relief but to ban its exclusive deals with apartment buildings.

At the meeting, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a proposal to disallow exclusive contracts between multichannel-video providers and apartments, condos and other multiple-dwelling units, which the cable industry opposes. But it is also scheduled to extend video franchise relief, which the commission earlier this year accorded telcos and cable overbuilders, to incumbent cable operators, which the cable industry has been calling for.

The FCC last March asserted its authority over the contracts.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin recently said that the exclusive contracts with MDUs contribute to higher prices and less choice for apartment dwellers, particularly affecting minorities, with 40% of African-American families living in apartments.

The cable industry countered, including in a filing Wednesday, that the FCC does not have the authority to intervene in the contracts -- a point seconded by state legislatures. The National Cable & Telecomunications Association argued in a letter to the FCC that it would be both "wholly inappropriate" and "counterproductive" for the commission to take the "extreme step of abrogating commercial agreements."

State legislators have sided with cable, saying that the FCC would be usurping their authority.

Martin had scheduled a vote at the September meeting on extending franchise relief to incumbent operators, but it was eventually pulled from the agenda.