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FCC Won't Disclose Cable Operator's Rate Information To Public

The FCC Thursday said it would protect rate information that it is seeking from cable operators from public disclosure.

In protective orders issued Nov. 13, the FCC's enforcement bureau said that, "In general, the Commission will grant more limited access to those materials which, if released to competitors, would allow those competitors to gain a significant advantage in the marketplace."

Specifically, it pointed to the information it sought in letters of inquiry about the per-sub fees for channels being moved from analog to digital. "Consequently, the Bureau hereby adopts this Protective Order to ensure that any confidential or proprietary information submitted by Company in response to Question 8.b. [the rate question] of the LOI is afforded adequate protection." 

NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow, in his letter asking for the letters of inquiry to be rescinded, said that despite bureau confidentiality procedures, “the consequences of disclosure, inadvertent or otherwise of information about negotiated fees from program suppliers], are very significant for the contracting parties, especially the programmers involved, who are not targeted by the Bureau’s dragnet but would suffer the consequences of a leak.”

The companies getting the letters are: GCI, RCN, Cox, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Suddenlink, Cablevision, Bright House Networks, Charter, Bend Cable, Midcontinent, and Metrocast.

Those companies have until midnight to provide the information to the commission or face enforcement bureau action up to and including fines.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has complained that the FCC is on a general fishing expedition that violated the Paperwork Reduction Act. It has asked the FCC to rescind the letters. A spokesman for Chairman Kevin Martin says the inquiry does not violate any laws and says the FCC has received complaints about each of the operators targeted with the letterrs of inquiry.