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ACA Commends FCC For Recognizing Cable’s Right To Participate In Online Video Market

Trade Group Cautions Agency About Extending MVPD Regulation To Online Distributors

PITTSBURGH, April 3, 2015 - The American Cable Association applauds the Federal Communications Commission's ongoing effort to promote innovation and video competition by recognizing that cable operators should be able to freely distribute video services over the Internet outside the scope of rules applicable to cable services.

"From years in the trenches battling to reform retransmission consent and program access rules, ACA is proud to routinely support more choices and competition for consumers and that its members continue to provide innovative video offerings.  ACA commends the FCC for understanding ACA members' interests and ability to offer consumers new video services over the Internet, and proposing not to burden such services, when offered on a standalone basis by cable operators, with rules and regulations that apply to cable services," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

In reply comments filed April 1, ACA also noted its support of the FCC's proposal to ensure parity of treatment for all entities providing managed cable services as cable operators, regardless of the transmission technology.

"For too many years, AT&T U-verse and other similar IPTV services have had an unfair regulatory advantage in the marketplace over rival ACA members because the FCC has never classified these new services as cable services.  ACA appreciates that the FCC proposes to address this oversight and make sure that similarly situated providers of video service are treated similarly under FCC rules," Polka said.

ACA set forth its views in response to an FCC rulemaking geared toward including within the class of multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) certain providers using Internet distribution. The FCC seeks to "modernize" its understanding of the definition of an MVPD, which historically has included only facilities-based providers such as cable operators and Direct Broadcast Satellite providers, to include entities that make available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple linear streams of programming over the Internet, regardless of their lack of ownership or control of the facilities over which the programming is distributed.

ACA and its members support innovation and do not object to additional entry into the multichannel video distribution marketplace, but submit that the FCC's proposal to deem online video distributors (OVDs) that provide multiple streams of prescheduled (linear) programming as MVPDs cannot plausibly be reconciled with the statutory language or previous FCC interpretations of the term "MVPD."

"ACA believes that conferring MVPD status on linear OVDs that don't own or control distribution facilities into the home strays too far from the most plausible reading of the law and the intent of Congress to foster facilities-based MVPD competition," Polka said.

Instead, ACA said the best interpretation of the term MVPD requires that an entity provide a transmission path over which it makes available for purchase multiple channels of video programming. Under ACA's interpretation, the OVD services of any entity would not fall within the MVPD definition.

Despite its disagreement with the FCC's proposed expansion of the class of entities recognized as MVPDs, ACA commended the FCC for its forward-looking approach to Internet-based video offerings by cable operators.  It recommended that should the FCC go forward with its proposal concerning linear OVDs, the agency should ensure evenhanded regulatory treatment among cable MVPDs and between cable MVPDs and linear OVD MVPDs.  Specifically, ACA called for the following actions:

  • The FCC must confirm that cable MVPDs can also be providers of linear OVD/MVPD service, regardless of whether the linear OVD/MVPD service is offered to the same customers of the cable MVPD service; and
  • The FCC must ensure that cable operators are able to compete fairly with linear OVDs/MVPDs by declaring that a cable operator that has the right to distribute broadcast TV stations and cable-affiliated programming networks over its managed cable service also has the right to distribute the programming online.

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 nearly 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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