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Sen. Bennet Asks FCC to Rethink Effective Competition

Add Colorado Democratic senator Michael Bennet to the list of congressional Senate Democrats who have registered concern with the FCC's proposal to presume cable operators face local market competition for traditional video unless a franchisee can prove otherwise.

The chairman has circulated an order reversing the "effective competition" presumption given that the FCC has granted, in whole or in part, every such petition since 2013, primarily due to the presence of two national video competitors, Dish and DirecTV.

A finding of effective competition triggers basic cable rate deregulation and removes the requirement that retrans stations be on that basic tier.

In a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Bennet said that he was concerned that cable opeators could move "less profitable local stations" from the basic tier, leading to less choice and higher prices, especially for rural and low income Coloradans.

The FCC is under an early June deadline to take steps to streamline the effective competition process for smaller and rural cable operators per the STELAR satellite reauthorization legislation, but decided to streamline it for all operators given the recent track record of petitions.

It is still only a presumption, and franchisees can make the case that a market isn't competitive.

Other Senate Democrats (and an independent) who have taken aim at the proposal include Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar (both D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Not everyone on the Hill is pushing the FCC to switch gears. In a letter dated May 13, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Communication Subcommittee, joined with Republican Steve Scalise (La.) to support the FCC's proposal to "update" the effective competition provision.

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.