FCC To Review Cable Act Regs

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Over the next 12 months, the FCC will look at a host of regulations with an eye toward keeping, changing or jettisoning rules it adopted between 1993 and 1995, depending on their affect on small businesses.

It has asked for help in deciding, opening a public comment period that closes Sept. 5.

With the rules flowing from the 1992 Cable Act falling in that window, on the table are the gamut of cable regs, from ownership limits, mandatory broadcast station carriage on cable systems (must-carry), and cable rate regulation, to nondiscriminatory program access, as well as some broadcast-related regs--Emergency Alert System technical standards, competitive bidding procedures and some ex parte communications among them.There are also a host of telephone regulations, from slamming to telemarketing to rates of return.

What's with the apparent regulatory house-cleaning? Actually, its the latest in a periodic rule review mandated by law, specifically the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which require regulators to assess the affect their rules will have on small businesses with an eye toward "minimize[ing] any significant economic impact of such rules upon a substantial number of small entities.

The FCC is also required--by the 1996 Telecommunications Act of 1996-- to do a separate keep/change/chuck periodic review--once biennial now quadrennial--of its regs.

Although the RFA review is standard operating procedure, it provides anyone looking for a venue to argue for or against, say, a cable ownership cap or programming access another bite at the apple.

The FCC is looking to determine, among other things, whether a rule is needed, what complaints it has generated, how complex it is, whether it overlaps with or duplicates other rules, and the effects of changes in technology.

The FCC conducted a similar review in 2002 for the years 1990-92.

FCC spokesman David Fiske said the commission has been doing reviews in three- or four-year batches, but will now do it annually, per the statute, coordinated with its Office of Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO) which "promotes telecommunications business opportunities for small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses."

The rules under review take up several pages (http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-05-1524A1.doc provides a full listing).

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