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FCC IAC Opposes Effective Competition Reversal

An FCC advisory committee comprising state and local governments has advised the FCC not to reverse its presumption that cable systems are not subject effective competition.

The decision could speed up the process for cable ops to get out from under rate regulations imposed by local and state franchising authorities.

The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC), formerly the Local and State Government Advisory Committee, said emphatically that cable operators are not subject to effective competition.

the FCC based its tentative finding on the fact that it had not denied any effective competition petitions since the beginning of 2013. But IAC said that relying on that was not appropriate. It pointed out that most of those went unchallenged by local franchise authorities, which could have been for any number or reasons other than whether or not there was effective competition.

It asked how many of those granted petitions may have been granted in error, or simply because they satisfied the FCC requirements, which IAC argues is not necessarily the equivalent of effective competition (though arguably that is what the FCC has to go on).

IAC said that if the FCC does proceed with the reversal, that it make explicit that PEG channel and consumer protections are retained, and can be mandated by franchising authorities even with a finding of effective competition.

IAC also asked for clarity on how the FCC would deal with local petitions in states where franchising is on the state level.

The FCC is under an early June deadline to produce an order streamlining the effective competition petition process for small, particularly rural, cable operators. It has proposed doing so by reversing the presumption for all carriers, but a presumption that can be rebutted by franchise authorities.

IAC is chaired by Wilton Manors, Fla., Democratic mayor Gary Resnick. Democratic New York mayor Bill de Blasio is vice chair and Democratic Virginia governor Terry McCauliffe is the lone state executive representative.

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.