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Sen. Fischer Slams FCC’s Set-Top Plan As ‘A Solution In Search Of A Problem’

Nebraskan Says FCC Overregulation Threatens Smaller Communications Providers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL., July 25, 2016 - Addressing a roomful of independent cable operators, Sen. Deb Fischer said she fears that Federal Communications Commission overregulation will injure smaller communications providers of multichannel video and broadband service that serve millions of consumers residing in rural areas in her home state and elsewhere that are typically more expensive on average to provision.

"I am concerned that [FCC] overregulation in the telecom sector will harm investment and it will make carriers less likely to invest in the infrastructure that is needed to bring the benefits of broadband to our consumers," said the Nebraska Republican, who was introduced to the Independent Show audience by fellow Cornhusker Todd Foje, CEO of Great Plains Communications in Blair, Nebraska.

The Senate Commerce Committee member pointed to FCC Chairman Wheeler's proposal related to pay-TV set-top boxes, calling it "a solution in search of a problem" and a costly endeavor amid an explosion in access to high-quality video programming via smart TVs, home computers and mobile device, such as smart phones, and tablets.

"Vibrant competition in the video market already exists," Sen. Fischer said. "What [the Wheeler plan] will do is pave the way for more potential problems, particularly for small providers."

The Senate Commerce panel oversees the FCC and the communications industry, including cable operators. In May, a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including Sen. Fischer, asked the FCC to delay its set-top box proposal, underscoring the harm to small businesses and rural residents. The full audio of Sen. Fischer's Independent Show remarks is here.

Prior to takings questions from ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka, Sen. Fischer voiced concern about the FCC's proposed broadband privacy regulations - again based on the impact on smaller providers, which, she said, would have a "hard time" complying.

"The FTC [Federal Trade Commission] enforcement-based approach has worked for many years. The FCC has presented no evidence - none - to show why its proposed approach will be better for consumers," Sen. Fischer said. "So what's the ultimate result of this proceeding. Small carriers will again be forced to shoulder those compliance costs. They made decide to forgo providing these broadband services. Without a doubt it would be worse for consumers."

Sen. Fischer noted that in response to the FCC's February, 2015 reclassification of broadband access as a telecommunications service - a move she opposed - she and other Senators have worked to limit the impact - for example, by passing out of the Commerce Committee the "Small Business Broadband Deployment Act of 2015," which contains a three-year exemption for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with 250,000 subscribers or fewer from the FCC's Open Internet enhanced transparency requirements.

"This is a common sense measure. It would exempt small providers from the FCC's enhanced transparency net neutrality ruling, which could disincentivize businesses from providing service where it is most needed," the lawmaker said.

The Independent Show is being held at Walt Disney World's award-winning Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fl. The show is an annual forum created to focus attention on the key public policy issues facing independent cable operators. ACA co-hosts the event with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), a Lenexa, Kansas-based group that buys programming and equipment for U.S. cable operators. Please find show news on Twitter at #TIS16.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 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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