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FCC's Competition Gets Massachusetts Pushback

More than a hundred communities, mostly in Massachusetts, filed petitions to the FCC by Dec. 8 to challenge the new FCC presumption that local cable operators are subject to effective competition. The FCC had previously assumed there was not local competition and required cable operators to prove there was but has not reversed that.

If a cable operator is deemed to have effective competition—with the ubiquity of satellite accounting in part for the FCC's decision to reverse the presumption against it—cable ops can get out from under local franchise rate regulations of the basic tier.

The FCC released a public notice Dec. 17 outlining the various states of effective competition determinations, including cable petitions under the old presumption that were both opposed and unopposed, as well as decisions that had been appealed.

The Campbell County (Ky.) Cable Board and the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs filed to block the deregulation in one market apiece, but the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable cited almost 120 communities, and there are hundreds of communities opposing previous cable assertions of competition. Most are Comcast but also Time Warner Cable and Mediacom. Those communities will remain under basic rate regs until the FCC makes a determination.

The unopposed cable operator petitions for effective competition were deemed granted as of Dec. 8, while those hundreds that were opposed and unresolved remain to be determined and also still under the rate regs.

The FCC's decision to assume cable ops were subject to effective competition until proved otherwise took effect Sept. 9 and local franchise authorities had 90 days to file forms asserting they were not competitive (by Dec. 8), or the basic rate regs would go away on that date.

Communities can always file to reinstate the rate regs, but unless they filed by the date or have a challenge already in the pipeline, the regs went away Dec. 8.

To check out the FCC's list, which also includes appeals of prior decisions, go here.

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.