Democrats Diss Reversing Effective Competition Presumption

A dozen senators (11 Democrats and an Independent) have asked the Federal Communications Commission to rethink its proposal to assume cable operators have local market competition and thus can get out from under basic-cable rate regulation.

Among the FCC's directives from Congress in the STELAR Act satellite reauthorization bill that passed last December was streamlining the process for effective-competition petitions for small cable operators. The FCC decided to propose a broader change, reversing the presumption that cable operators of all sizes were not subject to competition, given that the agency had granted virtually all such requests recently.

But in a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the senators, including longtime cable rate critic Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn), said they believe reversing the presumption "is contrary to Congress’ direction and may increase the rates that consumers pay for cable TV while reducing the number of channels offered in a cable company’s lowest-cost package.

"[R]ather than focusing on reforms targeting the specific needs of these small cable operators," they added, "the Commission’s proposal to implement Section 111 goes beyond Congress’ stated intent, providing unnecessary regulatory benefits to large cable companies."

The FCC has a June 1 deadline to come out with an order, according to STELAR.

In addition to Franken, signing on to the letter were Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

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.