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ACA Chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah Pledges Trade Group’s Support For Key Communications Policy Reforms

ACA Leader Says Retransmission Consent, Program Access Rank High As Concerns Of Independent Cable Operators

PITTSBURGH, March 14, 2013 - In a speech launching the American Cable Association's 20th Washington Summit, ACA Chairman Colleen Abdoulah hailed the trade group's progress on behalf of the independent cable operator and pledged to continue the effort to obtain new rules that are responsive to the communications needs of hometown America.

Abdoulah, ACA's senior executive since July 2011, said ACA's strategically timed advocacy efforts have made it possible for ACA Members to invest billions of dollars in their networks and lead the country in broadband deployment.

"This is our anniversary. It is a time to celebrate our past achievements as well as prepare for the future," Abdoulah said on Wednesday. "Twenty years from now, I trust our members will look back with pride knowing that we were focused and remained true to our principles, no matter how tough the issues were or how powerful our opposition was. Staying focused and disciplined is critical because the challenges we face are complex and many."

Abdoulah -- who is CEO and Chairwoman of WOW! Internet, Phone and Cable based in Englewood, Colo. - addressed hundreds of ACA Members and other attendees present at this year's historic ACA Summit taking place at the Grant Hyatt, located a few blocks from the White House. The ACA Summit concludes March 14 with a day of lobbying visits to Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.

In her speech, Abdoulah also expressed ACA's ongoing interest in reforming retransmission consent, stopping many TV station owners from colluding in negotiating retransmission consent and maintaining access to key content on fair and reasonable terms by individual ACA Members and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), the industry's largest program buying group.

Last year, TV stations staged a record number of signal blackouts negatively affecting ACA Members and their customers. 

"Millions of Americans found themselves without access to their local broadcast signals after TV stations cut off programming 91 times, a 78% increase over 2011," Abdoulah said.

ACA is greatly troubled that dozens of TV stations are engaging in collusion in many local TV markets. Separately owned TV stations serving the same local market are coordinating their retransmission consent negotiations in order to gain even more bargaining leverage over ACA Members, she said.

ACA has documented 48 combinations in 43 different markets of Big 4 broadcasters coordinating their retransmission consent negotiations, driving up the price of access to TV signals by at least 22% and frequently by much, much more.

"Those of us who have been victims of this type of collusion know that these coordinated retransmission consent negotiations have to be stopped.  It's time for the FCC to call out the broadcasters and put an end to it immediately," Abdoulah said.

As part of the fight for access to programming on fair and reasonable terms, Abdoulah said that ACA will continue to work to ensure that NCTC is covered by the FCC's program access protections.  At ACA's request, the FCC is now considering the adoption of new rules that would allow NCTC to file complaints concerning discriminatory prices and the terms and conditions of programming offered by cable-affiliated programmers.

"We are urging the FCC to act now and also put in safeguards to prevent programmers from evading their protections crafted by the FCC," she said.

Abdoulah addressed another controversial programming issue: sports costs. She noted that TV deals with the NFL will cost consumers at least $42 billion.

"There was a press report last month that ESPN - already the most expensive channel in expanded basic - is going to raise its monthly wholesale rate to $7 per month, per subscriber - up 40% from today's rate.  Washington officials need to call a time out and take a close look at the sports programming mess," Abdoulah said.

ACA Members, she said, have been pioneers in bringing broadband Internet access to American homes and businesses, adding that ACA will continue to reinforce the FCC's historic view of limited regulation of broadband Internet services.

"ACA has also warned the government not to subsidize our competitors in the buildout of their networks in the areas that we already serve.  When we spend our own capital to bring broadband and other services to communities, there is absolutely no reason for the government to step in.  Not only does it discourage private investment, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars," Abdoulah said.

Independent cable operators from communities all across the great American heartland are gathering in Washington, D.C., this week to celebrate two decades of achievement at the 20th Summit.

The ACA Summit - cable's premier event for smaller, independent and competitive cable operators - is widely considered the best opportunity for small business owners serving hometown America with advanced communications services to advocate for change in face-to-face exchanges with Obama Administration officials, Capitol Hill lawmakers and senior FCC personnel.

The 20th ACA Summit extends a long tradition as the most important forum nationally to honor the critical role played by independent cable operators that serve rural and remote regions of the country that are typically much more costly to build out with advanced technology.

The year's ACA Summit is once again underscoring the trade group's firm commitment to finding consensus and highlighting progress made on many critical issues, especially retransmission consent, broadband deployment and access to content on fair and reasonable terms.

For further information about the ACA Summit 2013 agenda and the exciting lineup of speakers please visit: http://acasummit.org/

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 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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