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ACA Urges FCC To Take Active Role In Funding Middle-Mile Broadband Required To Service Small Cable Providers

Agency's Support Would Ensure That Broadband Download Speeds In Rural Areas Would Increase Dramatically, Create Parity With Urban Markets

PITTSBURGH, July 22, 2009 -  The American Cable Association called on the Federal Communications Commission to fund middle-mile broadband facilities and permit small, independent cable providers to access those networks on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms to ensure that consumers in rural areas can enjoy the same rapid download speeds widely available to consumers in urban locations.

"Broadband speeds in rural America are not what they could be because ACA members route traffic to the Internet backbone over slow and expensive middle-mile facilities that unfortunately have not been upgraded by their owners in many years," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "The FCC could turn this disappointing situation around by funding middle-middle infrastructure projects and demanding that those critical links remain available to ACA members and similarly situated third parties on fair and reasonable terms."

ACA's call for a new approach to the middle-mile issue came in comments (available here) filed Tuesday in connection with the FCC's duty to craft a national broadband strategy by next February. ACA pointed out that a broadband strategy aimed at upgrading the middle-mile link with government support would produce tangible results and would be seen by fair-minded individuals as an effective use of public resources.

"Although ACA members continue to invest capital in their local broadband access facilities in rural communities, they are not in position to spend the tens of millions of dollars it would take to run a middle-mile fiber network for dozens of miles to reach the nearest Internet backbone access point," Polka said. "The FCC's broadband strategy for rural areas would likely be judged a popular success if it opted to fund middle-mile projects and adopted appropriate safeguards."

In its comments, ACA raised a number of concerns developing in the market that could retard the growth and progress of rural broadband access providers, which do not have the economic clout to fend off media conglomerates bent on pursuing consumer-hostile business models on the Internet.

ACA, for example, noted that the Walt Disney Co. won't allow broadband subscribers to access ESPN360 content until their broadband provider has entered into an agreement that requires payment of fees based on the provider's total subscriber base rather than on the actual number that want to access ESPN360.

ACA urged the FCC to prohibit Disney's conduct and similar "closed Internet" business models designed to wall off or block content until access providers agree to pay wholesale access fees, which force all consumers to pay more for broadband even though a likely majority will never view ESPN360 content.

In other comments and recommendations, ACA called on the FCC to take into account the needs of small, independent cable operators by:

 

  • Developing an accurate broadband map that includes middle-mile infrastructure.

 

  • Ensuring that pole attachment rates charged by utilities are reasonable and non-discriminatory.

 

  • Creating a new Universal Service Fund exclusively for broadband that is technologically neutral and open to cable operators on an equal basis.

 

  • Allowing broadband providers to manage their networks by relying on consumption-based billing, which gives consumers direct control over how much money they spend each month for Internet access.

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About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing more than 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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