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By Lydia Beyoud
March 31 — Cable groups are opposing a motion from broadcasters and Public Knowledge asking the FCC to either narrow the scope of its proposed rules on a rebuttable presumption that sufficient competition exists in the cable marketplace, or else to extend the comment deadlines for the NPRM, according to two March 31 filings.
The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (MB Docket No. 15-53) March 16 on reversing its regulatory status quo by adopting a rebuttable presumption that competition exists in the cable marketplace, thereby requiring a state or local franchising authority to show that competition doesn't exist in order to regulate basic cable rates
The proposed rule is part of the FCC's effort to implement Section 111 of the STELA Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014, which directs the agency to streamline the effective competition petition process for small cable operators. In its last reauthorization of the nation's satellite TV laws, Congress required the FCC to implement Section 111 rules by June 2.
In separate FCC filings, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association, asked the FCC to stick with its timeline of an April 9 comment deadline and April 20 reply comment deadline.
The National Association of Broadcasters and Public Knowledge March 26 requested the FCC to either narrow the scope of its NPRM or push the deadlines to May 11 and May 26, respectively.
In its filing, ACA said it supports NCTA's position that both NAB and PK failed to demonstrate that there is good cause for the relief they requested, and that therefore the FCC should deny their motion and continue with the proceeding.
“Such an extension would, of course, make it impossible as a practical matter for the Commission to meet the statutory deadline for implementing Section 111,” NCTA said in its own filing.
In their joint March 26 filing, NAB and PK said the FCC had gone well beyond Congress's “narrow, specific directive” that the FCC establish a streamlined process for filing of an effective competition petition for small cable operators.
Congress's directive was “ limited, procedural in nature and focused specifically on small cable operators,” while the FCC's proposed rules in the Commission’s NPRM “is wide-ranging and has the potential to have a seismic impact on consumers throughout the country, regardless of whether they are served by small cable companies,” the two groups said.
The groups asked the FCC to either keep to its current schedule by narrowing the scope of the proceeding solely to comments addressing the issue raised by Congress, or else to delay the deadlines until May 11 for comments and May 26 for reply comments. “The current comment deadlines are reasonable only if the scope of the proceeding is circumscribed in this manner,” NAB and PK said.
As part of a deferral, the groups asked the FCC to reverse its proposed rebuttable presumption of effective cable market competition as applied to any cable operator, or else to modify the filing process for cable operators larger than the statutory definition of small cable operators.
NCTA said the motion to modify an NPRM after its release “represents an extraordinary and improper attempt to obtain premature reconsideration of a proposed rule before the Commission even has a chance to consider it, let alone adopt it.”
Nothing prevents the FCC from proposing to modify its own rules in the area of filing effective-competition petitions for small operators, NCTA said.
The group added that the NPRM is grounded in both current marketplace experience and the law. “The reality is that over the past 22 years cable systems serving thousands of communities with millions of subscribers have been found to be subject to effective competition without any adverse, let alone “seismic,” impact on the public interest,” NCTA said.
For its part, ACA said a delay in the proceeding would interfere with the FCC's consideration of viable options in accordance with STELAR and the relief sought by small cable operators.
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Text of the ACA filing is at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001041897.
Text of NCTA's filing is at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001041871.
Text of the NAB/PK filing is at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001041508.
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