NAB: FCC Already Has Venue for Narrow Effective Competition Reform

Related: NAB Show 2015 Complete Coverage

The National Association of Broadcasters, Public Knowledge and others have told the FCC it already has a venue for streamlining the effective competition petition process without making the "sweeping changes" the FCC has proposed.

Cable operators are now required to show they have effective competition before they can get out from under basic tier rate regulation.

In response to a mandate in the satellite television legislation (STELAR), the FCC is required to take steps to streamline the process. It has tentatively concluded that it should reverse the presumption and assume cable operators are subject to effective competition unless it can be proved otherwise.

That is in part because of the presence of DISH and DirecTV, which has led to virtually all of the petitions to be granted in recent years. Cable operators large and small support reversing that presumption and putting the onus on their opponents.

But NAB et. al, in a letter to the FCCsaid that Congress did not mean for the FCC to take that broad step, and pointed out in a letter that they could streamline the process for smaller operators — which they say was all Congress was looking for — without reversing the presumption, and through action on existing petitions related to a 2002 rate regulation notice, a proceeding the FCC still has not resolved.

"When initiating that proceeding, the Commission observed that there may be ways to improve its 'procedures used to demonstrate the presence of effective competition,'" NAB and the other groups said.

Among those offered up by commenters on that 2002 inquiry were:

— "Urging the Commission to eliminate elements of an effective competition showing that are no longer in dispute. This could include, for example, not having to demonstrate that consumers are aware of the availability of a competitive DBS offering in light of 'significant, sustained marketing [by DBS providers] to convince cable customers to switch multichannel providers.'

— "Citing difficulties in obtaining accurate subscriber data from competing providers, commenters urged the FCC to reiterate that competitors must timely respond to requests for information and to use its enforcement authority to ensure compliance with this requirement.

— “Suggesting that the FCC automatically grant unopposed petitions for effective competition once the time for filing oppositions has elapsed.

— "Recommending that the FCC adopt a time limit for its review of petitions for effective competition, even where the petitions are opposed.”

NAB et. al said the FCC could and should act on those, or other narrow fixes.

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.