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ACA: Retrans Puts Us At Competitive Disadvantage

Related: NCTA: '92 Cable Act Regulations Are "Relics"

The American Cable Association focused on retransmission consent in its comments to the FCC on the state of video competition.

In a filing at the commission, ACA said that the "meteoric rise" in retrans costs for the small and medium-sized cable operators it represents put them at a competitive disadvantage by limiting their ability to deploy advanced services, including broadband in rural markets.

ACA was speaking the FCC's language, since the commission has been charged by Congress with spurring the rollout of broadband, particularly in rural areas.

Among the questions the FCC wanted answered in its request for information for its 14th competition report since the passage of the 1992 Cable Act was whether smaller operators could get access to TV stations under reasonable terms and conditions. ACA's answer was no, saying it is the same answer it has been giving the FCC for several years.

But ACA says 2008 was more challenging than any previous round of negotiations. Among the challenges they cite are not only increases in cash payments but in-kind payments such as carriage of multicast feeds, affiliated, non-broadcast channels, and the purchase of broadcast ad time or the provision of cross-channel promotion as part of the deals.

ACA asked the commission to "consider closely" the impact of retrans on its members' ability to compete, and "should act where necessary."

The FCC is collecting data from 2007, 2008 and 2009 so it can put out a three-year report to compensate for the failure to issue a report since 1996. As part of the Cable Act, the FCC is supposed to put out an annual report on the state of video competition. It did not issue the 2006 report until January of this year after it got caught up in controversy over a proposed finding that cable had met a competitive threshold--70% of the multichannel video market, with 70% of that market taking their service--that could have triggered new regulation.