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FCC Recertifies Boston to Regulate Comcast Rates

The FCC's Media Bureau has recertified Boston to regulate
basic rates of cable provider Comcast, a decision that comes only weeks before
the National Cable & Telecommunications Association plans -- Comcast is its
largest member -- plans to hold its annual convention there.

But Comcast can stay that decision by seeking rate relief on
alternate grounds, which it is expected to do. "Comcast faces real competition
every day in Boston from DirecTV, Dish Network, and RCN," said the company
in a statement. "With the amount of competition in the city, we expect to
easily meet the so-called ‘Competing Provider' test, and we plan to refile as
soon as possible as provided under the FCC Order. Importantly, Boston cannot
re-regulate until the Commission acts on that filing. With the level of
competition in the city, prices should be set by market forces, not by

The city had petitioned the FCC to revoke its finding of
effective competition made back in 2001, saying the situation had changed. The
FCC agreed. It said that because overbuilder RCN passed less than a third 32.1%
of the Boston market and had no plans to expand were decisive in determining
that there was not effective competition from that overbuilder.

Comcast had argued that combining RCN with the two satellite
providers met the FCC test of at least 15% subscription to an alternative
service, but the FCC said that was a new argument and that its procedures do
not allow for it to consider that new evidence, as it were, but only the basis
for the original decertification.

But it did say it would entertain a new relief request from
Comcast based on those grounds, and that so long as it files that request
within 30 days of the release of the opinion and order, which came out today
(April 9), it will stay the city's ability to reregulate rates pending the
outcome of that request.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino filed the petition for basic
cable rate re-regulation at the FCC back in May, citing three Comcast rate
increases in the city and what he said was a lack of competition. The most
recent increase came Feb. 19.