OMB rejects FCC’s new leased access requirements

Fri, 07/11/2008 - 8:35am
Brian Santo

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new rules for leased access of cable channels, proposed in November, have been shot down by a White House bureau.

The FCC proposed regulations, which never went into effect, that would have forced cable operators to cut the price they charge to lease channels to independent programmers. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has rejected those rules, saying the FCC failed to justify the additional bureaucratic burdens they would put on cable companies.

While the country’s largest cable company, Comcast, and the NCTA were also among the petitioners challenging the proposed rules, the argument against adopting the new FCC regulations was especially critical for the several thousand small cable operators, represented by the American Cable Association (ACA).

The ACA successfully demonstrated to the OMB that the new regulations were a violation of the Federal Paperwork Reduction Act.  In addition, although the Commission estimated compliance would require a “mere 27 hours per cable system,” many ACA members reported higher time requirements and a more significant impact on business operations, staffing and the ability to deploy advanced services.

The FCC could still attempt to impose the regulations. The OMB’s decision simply compels the FCC to provide better justification for the rules (assuming the FCC can do so). 

In its disapproval order issued earlier today, the OMB cited the following as cause for its rejection of the FCC’s “New Requirements”:

  • Failure to demonstrate the need for reducing from 15 days to three days the time to respond to leased access information requests;
  • Failure to demonstrate that it had taken reasonable steps to minimize the burden on cable operators, who will be required to hire new staff to comply with the shortened response deadline and the increased number of leased access inquiries (which would occur as a result of the reduced rates);
  • Failure to demonstrate the practical utility and need for an increased number of leased access inquiries to cable operators and the inherent burden that would result; and,
  • Failure to demonstrate that there were reasonable mechanisms in place to protect proprietary and confidential information that cable operators would be required to provide to potential programmers.

ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said: “Increasing the amount of time, money and energy required to comply with disproportionate, burdensome information collection requirements hinders the ability of our member companies to deploy these important services. This order ran contrary to the FCC’s continued efforts to reduce small-business reporting burdens, and the OMB was right to reject it.”

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