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Small ops still fight for a fair market

Mon, 07/14/2008 - 8:40am
Brian Santo

Small, independent operators from Texas and surrounding states are increasingly concerned about the rising cost of retransmission consent fees, the restrictions tying and bundling practices place on customer choice, and the need for greater investment in broadband deployment to rural communities.

Dozens of small operators in the region had gathered for the Small Cable Operators Roundtable in Dallas, hosted by Chuck Davis, the owner of TV Cable of Grayson County, and supported by the American Cable Association (ACA).

The roundtable focused on the most critical issues facing independent cable operators across the country, specifically the need to put an end to pricing and packaging discrimination against small cable operators at the hands of programmers and broadcasters.

The practice of tying and bundling has drawn a great deal of attention at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in recent months, and the ACA and its members hope action by the Commission will curb what the operators charge is market abuse by programmers and give operators the ability to offer greater choice and lower prices to their customers.

Attendees also discussed how they are increasingly being charged what they say are exorbitant fees for pole attachments, and the difficulties in getting support from the Rural Utilities Service broadband deployment loan program.

“Today’s business environment for small cable operators is strangling our ability to provide value and choice to our customers,” Davis said. “Conversations like one we had here this week at the roundtable are an essential part of independent operators working together to fight against market abuses by broadcasters and programmers. Every opportunity we have to cast a brighter light on the use of tying and bundling practices and absurd retransmission fees for smaller operators by broadcasters and programmers is time well spent and should be considered a success.”

“I am proud of the attending ACA’s members who serve small town America and rural communities throughout the country for their interest in getting more involved in the legislative process,” said Matt Polka, ACA president and CEO. “These operators wanted to learn what more they can do to help Washington understand their concerns, and we were more than happy to teach them how to get even more involved.”

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