Defining NCTA's Stance
Editor: In response to a question from BROADCASTING & CABLE about the effects of the FCC's recent Triennial Review decisions on cable operators, I said, "The rulings are unlikely to have a significant impact on any of cable's competitive offerings" ["Bells Get New Lease on Lines," 2/24, p.2]. I also commented that "to the extent that some cable companies provide competitive local exchange services, the outcome was generally favorable." From this, your Feb. 24 story wrongly concluded that cable companies would be "asking state regulators to order the unbundling of Bell companies' local voice infrastructure."
My statement that the "outcome was generally favorable" referred only to the very limited, and largely uncontroversial, continued inclusion of certain "unbundled network elements" (UNEs) in the FCC's decision. Cable companies offer residential telephone service over cable using their own network facilities; thus cable operators seldom need UNEs. But occasionally these companies use a UNE called "dedicated transport." This element allows a cable company to hand off a call from one of its customers to the closest office of the local incumbent. In this limited sense, the FCC's decision regarding UNEs was "favorable."
That rather narrow observation has nothing to do with upcoming state regulatory proceedings addressing whether combinations
of different elements, called UNE platforms, must be provided by incumbent phone providers to competitors. UNE platforms involve switches—an element that a cable telephone provider supplies itself. Therefore, cable companies providing telephony do not use UNE platforms.
So we are agnostic on whether incumbents must provide these combinations of elements; we won't be involved in FCC proceedings on this subject or proceedings before state regulators.
Daniel Brenner, SVP, NCTA, Washington
Editor: On Feb. 17, BROADCASTING & CABLE reported on an independent five-year study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which establishes that newspaper/broadcast crossowned stations provide superior news service ["Local TV News Study Slams Bigger Owners," p.1].
The FCC's recent studies conducted to establish a factual predicate for the present on-going biennial review came to the same conclusion.
Interestingly, in 1975, when the crossownership ban was adopted, the commission admitted that crossowned stations broadcast more news and public affairs than any other category of broadcast ownership.
Enough! If the onus is on the commission to justify retention of its ownership rules as the '96 Act stipulates and the courts have clearly stated, it is high time that this "solution in search of a problem" is jettisoned. This is a no-brainer.
Shaun Sheehan, VP, government relations, Tribune Co., Washington