Martin Gets Three Votes for 30% Cable Cap

Item Tentatively Scheduled for Vote at Federal Communications Commission’s Dec. 18 Meeting

A majority of the Federal Communications Commission’s members voted to impose a 30% cap on the number of multichannel-video subscriber any one cable company could own, FCC sources confirmed.

No cable company would have to divest systems -- not even top system owner Comcast, which is at 27% -- but the rule prevents them from getting any bigger than that cap.

The item had been tentatively scheduled for a Dec. 18 vote at the FCC's public meeting, and may still get its official unveiling there.

The source confirmed that Martin's allies in the vote were Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein -- their aides had no returned calls at press time -- who also teamed with Martin last week to lower cable leased-access rates over the objections of the other two Republican members.

Not all of the votes have been cast, a commission source said, so the cap is not technically a done deal and it may not be released for several weeks as the commissioners work on their statements.

One cable lobbyist pointed out that items the chairman appeared to have the votes for have not always turned out that way, but the lobbyist conceded in those cases, no actual votes had been cast.

When the vote does become official, it will likely be taken to court by the cable industry.