FCC Seeks Comment on Ending Rate Regs for Small Cable Operators

The FCC is asking whether it should deregulate rates for small cable systems owned by small operators, in part because it isn't sure three are any such systems currently rate regulated.

It is also seeking comment on whether it should simplify the rate reg framework for everyone, eliminate rate regs by local franchise authorities on equipment used to receive cable service beyond basic, and tentatively concludes it should deregulate rates for commercial customers including bars and restaurants, pointing out that it has never applied its rate regs to cable business customers anyway.

That is part of a cable dereg item--a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) combined with a Report and Order, teed up for an Oct. 23 vote. It is just the latest potential regulatory underbrush-clearing in FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's Media Modernization efforts.

In the NPRM, the FCC signaled it was time to rethink cable rate regs given that rate regs beyond the basic tier were deregulated a couple of decades ago, most basic service is deregulated because the FCC now presumes a market is competitive given the presence of satellite TV and other options.

"We seek comment on whether to exempt from rate regulation those small cable systems, defined by our rules as cable systems serving 15,000 or fewer subscribers, that are owned by small cable companies, defined by our rules as cable television operators serving 400,000 or fewer subscribers," the FCC said.

The Report and Order (R&O's) takes the regulatory whacker into the weeks, getting rid of rules the FCC says are obsolete, like ones linked to non-basic service no longer regulated; or are unnecessary given current industry practices, or for other reasons; it also sunsets some obsolete forms.

Among the R&O's other housecleaning measures is to codify that where an operator offers its equipment for sale and lease, the sale price is unregulated.

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.