The Free State Foundation has taken aim at the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners' (NARUC) call for the FCC to apply its content access provisions on the Comcast/NBCU deal, which included both traditional and online content, to the broader industry.
In the resolution, NARUC argues that offering triple-play bundles is key for rural telecom providers in today's competitive marketplace, and that video is the "killer app" for the success of those bundles.
As a result, they say, "while helping to provide non-discriminatory access to content in some settings [in the Comcast/NBCU deal], the commission "has not dealt more broadly with the availability and potentially discriminatory pricing of content which disadvantages small and mid-sized LECs and comparable small and medium-sized cable providers," which they asked it now to do.
Free State argues that NARUC is trying to extend the FCC's just-adopted network neutrality regime to "content neutrality."
"For those advocates and regulators who seek more regulation for every ill they can imagine -- regardless of the real world marketplace environment," says Free State President Randolph May in a blog posting, "it is a short leap from regulating the "neutrality" of networks to regulating the "neutrality" of content...No matter how much the NARUC resolution is dressed up with talk of "killer" apps and "fair market value" and "non-discrimination," the regulatory interference it seeks to justify constitutes bad public policy."
The American Cable Association, some of whose members are small rural telecom carriers, commended NARUC for the move. ACA Presdient Matt Polka earlier this week said the resolution "sends a timely and important message to policymakers and the industry that fair treatment for small providers and their subscribers residing in rural communities across the nation is a critical public policy objective."
ACA pushed hard for access conditions on the Comcast/NBCU deal, and have argued that without broader access rules that level pricing and terms among large and smaller players, their members wind up paying disproportionately more--up to twice as much--for TV station signals in retrans deals.
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