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MSOs Urged to Use ‘Extreme Caution’ With Broadband Caps

TAMPA, Fla. — If you’re a tier 2 or 3 operator with plans to implement usage-based broadband policies, tread carefully in these uncertain waters, lawyers and lobbyists warned at the National Cable Television Cooperative’s Winter Educational Conference last week.

“Proceed with extreme caution,” Barbara Esbin, senior counsel at Cinnamon Mueller who also provides council to the American Cable Association, said last week during panel that covered a wide range of regulatory issues pertaining to smaller operators.

Although the anti-blocking and unreasonable discrimination provisions for wireline broadband have been vacated from the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order, new agency chairman Tom Wheeler said last week that he will seek to restore the FCC’s network-neutrality rules.

All of the panelists said they expect action, given that the current administration has about two years left and net neutrality has been at the forefront of communications policy.

“[Wheeler] is experienced and he has an experienced crew,” Tom Cohen, an attorney with Kelly Drye & Warren, said. “My sense is he will push things forward and be fearless about it.”

Esbin agreed. “This is not an issue that’s going to go away,” she said.

She also pointed out that Comcast must adhere to the old vacated rules through 2018, per the conditions of its NBCUniversal deal, and has agreed to extend that to the systems it’s poised to take over via its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

That requirement, Esbin said, could be exported to the rest of the cable industry, including smaller operators.