FCC Preps for Leased Access Do-Over

The FCC has released its agenda for the June 6 public meeting and, as telegraphed by its chairman earlier this month, cable operators will be following it with keen interest.

The sunshine notice, released a week before the meeting, contained only three items, though it includes one on leased access that cable operators are following closely and another on robocalls that has also drawn a lot of attention.

On the docket is the Report and Order (R&O) and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that would vacate the FCC's 2008 leased access rules and adopt new rules that "reflect changes in the video programming market."

The R&O includes eliminating the requirement that cable operators provide channels for part-time leased access, extending the rule that small systems only have to respond to "bona fide" requests for time (as opposed to requests for information) to all systems, and extend the time frame for responding to such requests from 15 calendar days to 30 calendar days and from 30 to 45 days for smaller systems. Those are all deregulatory changes cable ops have cheered. 

The FNPRM proposes to modify the leased access rate formula so that it is specific to the tier on which it is carried and "the statutory leased access requirements or the Commission’s other leased-access rules continue to withstand First Amendment scrutiny in light of the market changes discussed in this order? If not, what discretion does the Commission have to reduce the burdens."

Also teed up for a full-commission vote is a declaratory ruling clarifying that voice service providers can block robocalls as a default setting, the FCC's latest effort to rein in billions of unwanted calls.

Under the proposal, the FCC would allow phone companies to block calls to their customers by default--so long as customers could opt out of that setting--and would clarify that carriers could allow their customers to block calls that were not on their contact lists. There is also a third FNPRM that proposes a "safe harbor" for "providers that implement network-wide blocking of calls that fail caller authentication under the SHAKEN/STIR framework once it is implemented." 

The third item is on service rules for "the Aeronautical Mobile Airport Communications System (AeroMACS)."

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.