NCTA: FCC Should Ban Joint 'Broadcast Internet' Carriage Negotiations

Cable operators are telling the FCC that retrans regulations should apply to carriage negotiations that include ancillary "broadcast internet" services. 

Related: ATVA Says FCC Should Mandate HD Before Allowing Broadcast Internet

That came in comments by NCTA-The Internet & Television Association on the FCC's inquiry into what, if any, rules need to be changed to accommodate broadcaster's potential new multichannel services using the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard. 

The FCC voted unanimously in June to help promote broadcasting as a new ancillary/competitive broadband service by making it clear that legacy broadcast TV attribution and ownership regulations do not apply to broadcast-delivered internet services like over-the-top video and data made possible by the ATSC 3.0 broadcast transmission standard. 

TV stations can enter into lease agreements with any other station, or stations, in a single market to offer internet services without triggering the FCC's broadcast ownership and attribution rules, the FCC said. 

But NCTA said stations that do team up to provide those services should trigger restrictions on joint retrans negotiations by noncommonly owned stations. 

Related: Tech Groups Say TV Signal Spill-Over Should Be Deemed 'Unlicensed' 

Two TV stations are prohibited from negotiating jointly for MVPD carriage unless they are commonly owned, NCTA points out, per a congressional mandate and FCC rules.  

"Under these controlling principles," NCTA told the commission, "a broadcaster’s demand that a cable operator provide capacity on its system for a Broadcast Internet service that the broadcaster provides jointly with other non-commonly owned stations in the same market is joint or coordinated retransmission consent negotiations by these stations." 

It wants the FCC to "clarify" that that is indeed the case. "A broadcaster’s use of retransmission consent to acquire capacity on a cable system for a Broadcast Internet service provided by a consortium of non-commonly owned broadcasters implicates the same anti-competitive concerns as joint retransmission consent negotiations, and should similarly be prohibited," NCTA said.  

It also wants the FCC to adjust TV stations' regulatory fee so that it is not a broadcast subsidy, and to prevent broadcasters from degrading their primary channel in the process of rolling out a broadcast internet service. "The Commission asks 'whether a broadcaster’s replacement of an HD offering with an SD offering in order to deploy ancillary and supplementary services should be deemed a derogation of advanced television services under [its] rules," NCTA pointed out, adding: "The answer is yes."  

John Eggerton

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.