WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 - Senior officials of the American Cable Association kicked off the 22nd Washington D.C., Summit expressing confidence that the trade organization and its members are well positioned to seize opportunities on the key issues at the federal level despite challenges of the day.
"ACA has built a strong brand. We are known for fighting hard and playing smart. We take a rational and balanced approach. We understand how policymaking works and we are willing to consider compromise to make progress," said ACA Chairman Bob Gessner in keynote remarks to hundreds of ACA Summit attendees.
Later in the day, ACA Summit attendees were to hear from Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology; Reps. Bob Latta (R-Oh.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.); Gigi Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.
Gessner, president of MCTV in Massillon, Oh., who was introduced by ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka, said ACA's leadership has a clear vision for moving ahead in Washington, D.C. "We will ensure our members' interests are understood and advanced in our advocacy. We will continue to get our members engaged with policymakers," said Gessner, ACA's top leader since last July.
In separate remarks, Polka noted that ACA achieved a few legislative milestones last year. In the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act, Congress banned retransmission consent collusion; extended carriage of significantly viewed stations, eliminated rules that gave broadcasters special blackout protections; and voided the costly and burdensome CableCARD requirement.
Polka also acknowledged the challenging times, particularly the FCC's recent vote to mandate that providers of residential broadband Internet access service be subject to Title II common carrier regulation. "We demonstrated that significant harm would be inflicted on smaller ISPs through imposition of Title II rules, but our primary concerns went unaddressed," said Polka.
Polka said the group supported strong Net Neutrality rules, with prohibitions on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. He called these bright-line tests that can be enforced outside unwarranted and burdensome rules found in Title II of the Communications Act.
"Congress has the potential to pass rules that will protect an Open Internet, but do so in a way that does not harm independent cable," Polka said. "This can be done separately or included in a new communications law that hopefully will sweep away many outdated laws and regulatory preferences powerful incumbents have been abusing for too many years."
ACA's focus in the near term, Polka said, is drawing the government's attention to the competitive harms stemming from the Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers; updating the FCC's program access rules to provide protections for buying groups, like NCTC; and stumping for Local Choice as a superior substitute to the broken retransmission consent regime.
"Local Choice ... puts consumers in control compared to current retrans laws that give them no choice at all. Broadcasters set the fee for their channel, consumers choose to buy it or not, and blackouts are a thing of the past. Sen. John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, proposed this concept and remains interested in moving forward," Polka said.
Taking place March 3-5 in Washington, D.C., the ACA Summit is a forum that allows independent cable operators to come in close contact with America's top lawmakers, regulators and journalists to discuss the vital communications issues of our time.
The event is taking place at the Grand Hyatt, 1000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Please visit the ACA Summit 2015 website by clicking here: ACA Summit.
Created in the early 1990's, the ACA Summit gives independent cable operators a vehicle for framing the issues in their own words during dozens of meetings on Capitol Hill over a short period of time. More so than ever, ACA Members agree on the need to speak with one voice and to be as visible as possible in making their views known on the diverse and complex issues facing their companies.
ACA's more than 800 independent cable operators play a unique role in providing best-in-class communications services to millions of consumers, many living and working in rural areas of the country. These operators also are competitive providers of cable service in urban areas, bringing choice and price competition to consumers. When it comes to responding to the critical broadband infrastructure needs of America, ACA Members are supplying the solutions.
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 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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