WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15, 2012 - Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski spoke Wednesday to hundreds of ACA Members on key policy issues affecting them at the agency, including reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF), implementation of the CALM Act and efforts within the agency to understand the impact of current retransmission consent rules on independent cable operators in their dealings with broadcasters.
Genachowski, who has made affordable and universal broadband access a priority since taking office in June, 2009, noted that the FCC's new USF rules will eventually allocate funds to providers willing to build broadband facilities in unserved areas. He urged ACA Members to participate by bidding in reverse auctions to receive funds that they could use to extend their networks into adjacent areas that were too risky to serve without USF assistance.
"I'd be really excited to come to a town that's served by an ACA company that, as a result of a partnership between what we're doing and what the company does, gets broadband to small businesses and schools and individual consumers in an area that doesn't now have it," Chairman Genachowski said.
Chairman Genachowski said the overhaul of USF for the broadband age was necessary because "the thing has been broke for some time" and that he refused to believe as many did that shifting USF money from dial-up phone networks to broadband providers was an impossible task politically.
"I want to thank ACA for being very constructive participants in that [USF reform] process," Genachowski said.
Chairman Genachowski comments came in a morning appearance at the ACA Summit in Washington, D.C., in a one-on-one conversation with ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. The wide-ranging discussion allowed ACA Members to hear Chairman Genachowski's vision for spreading the availability of advanced communications services that will drive innovation, education and development necessary for America to maintain its leadership position in the global economy.
"ACA is honored that Chairman Genachowski came to visit with ACA Members and address the critical issues facing the independent cable community," Polka said. "ACA and Chairman Genachowski are likeminded on many communications issues, especially the importance of broadband deployment and the need for predictable government rules that will promote investment in capital-intensive projects in unserved and underserved areas."
Continuing on the topic of USF reform, Chairman Genachowski called on ACA Members to furnish the FCC with data that would confirm the availability of broadband access on their networks to prevent the FCC from providing USF broadband support to providers that face competition from unsupported providers, something he called wasteful and inefficient.
"Money was going in and it was providing support to companies in markets where there was another competitor that wasn't getting support. Well, that doesn't make any sense," Chairman Genachowski said. "That was something you just couldn't justify."
On the CALM Act, the law designed to curb volume spikes when TV commercials interrupt regular programming, Chairman Genachowski said the FCC struck the right balance in implementing the law to ensure that the goals of the statute were met without imposing costly compliance burdens on independent cable firms.
"In doing it, we took into account very much the input we got from ACA," Chairman Genachowski said, adding that enforcement would essentially be complaint-driven in lieu of an audit system. "We will continue to work with you if any issues come up during implementation."
On retransmission consent, Chairman Genachowski said that although "our authority is very limited to revise the way the system works," he said the FCC rulemaking launched in March 2011 is yielding "useful data, useful input that's being studied both at the FCC and in Congress."
The absence of many TV signal blackouts after the Dec. 31, 2011 negotiating deadline was a hopeful sign, Chairman Genachowski said.
"We were pleased that the number of blackouts and very serious instances of consumer disruption was minimized," he said. "I know that took some real work on the part of both cable operators and broadcasters to get there."
Although Chairman Genachowski said his preference is to see the marketplace work in a way that benefits all parties, he was receptive to reviewing the ability of powerful TV stations and TV station groups to leverage their clout in ways that are harmful to independent cable operators.
"We're open to that and that's something I think ACA and the Commission should continue to talk about," Chairman Genachowski said.
This year's ACA Summit is taking place March 13-15 at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C. The event is a unique opportunity for the leaders of companies that serve hometown America with advanced communications services to exchange public policy ideas with the Obama Administration, Capitol Hill lawmakers and senior FCC officials.
The Summit is most important forum nationally for honoring the critical role performed by independent cable operators that serve remote regions of the country with world-class voice, video and broadband Internet services.
The theme for this year's show is "Geared Up For Progress," underscoring ACA's firm commitment to finding consensus that leads to progress on many critical issues, especially retransmission consent, broadband deployment and access to content on fair and reasonable terms.
To learn more about ACA Summit 2012 and view the event photo gallery, please visit: ACASummit.org
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.4 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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