Ferree Wouldn't Dismiss AT&T-Time Warner Bid

Washington— No merger may be too big for FCC Cable Services Bureau Chief W. Kenneth Ferree, including a combined AT&T Broadband-Time Warner Cable behemoth, an idea that was floated last week.

"I wouldn't reject anything out of hand," Ferree told reporters Wednesday when asked if he would shoot down an AT&T Broadband-Time Warner Cable merger.

"I want to see the input that we get. I want to see the record. I want to see the data. I want to see where the harms are. And as the judge [U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Harry Edwards] once said when I was a clerk for him, 'Where is the evil? Show me the evil.' "

Ferree, meeting with reporters for the first time since he joined the FCC in May, emphasized that he only makes decisions supported by facts and thorough analysis, and that he doesn't make gut decisions.

"Everything I try to do as a lawyer — I try to do things based on substance, and do them very carefully in a very thoughtful way," Ferree said.

While discussing an FCC rule that bars an MSO from controlling more than 30 percent of pay-TV subscribers — and which was struck down in court — Ferree said he is "not so sure that there's necessarily a correlation between consolidation and cable rates, but that's an open question."

The FCC plans to release a further notice of proposed rulemaking on the cable ownership cap issue "within the next month or two," Ferree added.

Ferree joined the commission in May after working at Washington law firm Goldberg, Godles, Wiener & Wright, in which he was a partner.

The Fairfax County, Va., resident said he's satisfied with his current cable service, which is provided by Cox Communications Inc. Ferree said that he hasn't signed up for the MSO's digital package, but does have a cable-modem Internet connection from Cox.

"The cable-modem service is fast as hell," Ferree added.

Turning to other topics:

  • Ferree said the FCC hopes to release a notice of proposed rulemaking on program-access rules in October, which would address whether the sunset on the regulations should be extended past October of 2002. The rules force cable operators to offer satellite-delivered networks that they own to competitors.
  • Although Ferree has emerged as a candidate to lead a combined cable and mass-media bureau as FCC chairman Michael Powell moves to consolidate the agency, he said he doesn't know the details of Powell's reorganization plans. "I've been given no assurances that the cable bureau is a safe place to be," he said. "I have a lot of faith in this chairman. I think whatever he does will make sense for the commission and for the public."