BendBroadband: STELA Should Include Targeted Reforms

Small cable operators face competition from
satellite companies with national reach, telco video providers and new Internet-based
sources of content, all while hampered by one-sided, outdated or unnecessary
rules and an increasingly consolidated programming marketplace.

That is the picture painted by BendBroadband CEO Amy Tykeson
in a prepared testimony for a June 11 hearing in the House Communications
Subcommittee on reauthorization of STELA, the law that allows for the
importation of distant network TV station signals. BendBroadband is based in
the home state of Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

She says that the result, particularly for small operators,
is that they are unable to give customers "the video service that they
want, at reasonable prices, using the most innovative technologies

She identified three problem areas in need of
"targeted" reforms she suggested would brighten that picture
considerably: 1) "[B]arriers to creating programming packages that respond to
consumers' needs and demand"s; 2) "The breakdown of the retransmission consent
process, which is harming consumers"; and 3) "[U]nnecessary costs imposed on
cable consumers by requiring separable security in set-top boxes."

Tykeson says that some targeted updates of the
Communications Act should be included in the STELA reauthorization. While
representatives of Walden and ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) say they are
willing to debate stakeholder issues, they would also prefer a
"clean" reauthorization rather than a "Christmas tree."

"I believe it is time for Congress to take
targeted action to modernize the rules governing the video market to reflect
21st century realities. Simply hoping that the problems occurring in today's
marketplace will go away on their own will not solve the breakdowns that are
harming consumers. I am encouraged that the Subcommittee is engaging in this

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.