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NCTA slams FCC chair for false testimony

Tue, 02/19/2008 - 7:00am
Brian Santo

The word “lying” is never used in politics, but NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow accused FCC Chairman Kevin Martin of doing essentially that when the chairman gave testimony in Congress last Wednesday.

McSlarrow said Martin offered data about cable video costs that was both false and deceptive to justify the FCC’s attempts to regulate the cable industry. McSlarrow’s charges were included in a letter to Rep. Ed Markey, who presided over the hearing during which both McSlarrow and Martin testified.

Martin repeated the accusation he made in the past that cable rates have risen nearly 100 percent over the last 10 years, according to the NCTA letter. (Martin did not include comments about cable rates in the prepared text of his testimony, and a transcript of his actual testimony was not immediately available.)

McSlarrow said the data is flawed for any number of reasons. Martin’s data fails to take into account the value of a vastly expanded channel line-up, digital delivery, the introduction of high definition video, or on-demand services. The data fails to take into account the value of discounts in service bundles.

A more accurate metric, McSlarrow said, is price-per-channel, which the FCC measured until recently. “However, after it became clear that this measurement showed a decline in the real ‘price-per-channel,’ Chairman Martin ordered the Media Bureau to suppress this information from the public and Congress,” McSlarrow said in his letter.

McSlarrow also argued that if rising video rates are justification for new regulations, then the increases Verizon has recently levied for video should make phone companies subject to the same proposed rules, yet they are not.

“In testimony before your Subcommittee on Wednesday, FCC Chairman Martin sought to justify his repeated and controversial efforts to impose numerous new burdensome regulations on the cable industry by claiming cable prices have risen by nearly 100 percent over the last ten years,” the letter states. “By omitting important information, the continued use of this data paints a picture that is both deceptive and false. Your Subcommittee deserves, and should expect, the leader of any expert agency to provide you with accurate and complete information.”

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