Earlier this month, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) ramped up its opposition to new Federal Communications Commission reporting requirements aimed at determining if the cable industry has exceeded the thresholds set in the so-called 70/70 rule, and now the American Cable Association (ACA) is following suit.
The rule is a provision of the 1984 Cable Communications Act that gives the FCC expanded authority to impose new regulations on the cable industry. The trigger is the 70/70 rule: If the cable industry passes more than 70 percent of all U.S. households (it has) and also achieves 70 percent penetration of those homes (it hasn’t), the FCC gets expanded authority.
The clause was dredged up two years ago by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Martin’s attempts to gain greater control over the cable industry by using this mechanism were opposed by a coalition of interests, including, but not limited to, the cable industry, conservatives and minority groups.
The NCTA and the ACA have been opposing the effort for more than two years, with public statements as recent as February (story here ).
Last week, the ACA, in a filing (available here ), urged the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to block the FCC from collecting historical business data from small cable ops through the mandatory completion of what the Association considers “a costly and administratively burdensome industry survey.”
"The FCC totally underestimated the amount of time needed to complete the survey and made no attempt to minimize the administrative burdens on small, independent cable companies," ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said. "In reviewing the FCC's proposed survey, the OMB should conclude that it violates the Paperwork Reduction Act and can't be imposed on ACA members.
"The majority of ACA members are small businesses – mom-and-pop entities with just a few employees – that do not keep three-year-old data readily available, and do not have the time and resources to collect that data today," Polka added.
In January, the FCC announced that cable operators had to provide, for years 2006 and 2007, both subscriber totals and the total number of homes that could have subscribed to their multichannel video service. The OMB needs to approve the cable industry survey before the FCC can order cable companies to fill it out.
On March 13, the ACA filed comments with the FCC asking the agency to focus on collecting the most recently available data, and exempt cable operators with 20,000 subscribers or fewer from providing detailed subscriber and homes-passed totals for the past three years (story here ). FCC action on the ACA's request is pending.