Skip to main content

Free State FoundationTakes Aim AtNARUC Access Resolution

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
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

The American Cable
Association, some of whose members are small rural telecom carriers,
commended NARUC for the move.

ACA President 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.