PITTSBURGH, July 7, 2015 – American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s apparent decision not to protect multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) from unreasonably high fees charged by regional sports networks owned by AT&T and DirecTV:
“ACA is deeply disappointed that the Federal Communications Commission appears headed toward approving AT&T’s merger with DirecTV without shielding consumers from being overcharged for three Root Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) owned by DirecTV and a fourth Roots Sports RSN currently co-owned by AT&T and DirecTV.
“The FCC’s action would fly in the face of overwhelming evidence that AT&T and DirecTV have overcharged for their RSNs and have every intention of continuing to do so and to an even greater extent. Consumers, particularly those who are customers of smaller rivals to DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, will be forced to pay these costs in the greater Pittsburgh (Root Sports Pittsburgh), Denver (Root Sports Rocky Mountain), Seattle (Root Sports Northwest), and Houston (Root Sports Southwest) markets.
“While the FCC Chairman espouses ‘competition, competition, competition,’ should the FCC approve this transaction without any protections for smaller video providers and their customers, consumers will see only “higher prices, higher prices, higher prices.” That runs contrary to the protections blessed by the last three FCC Chairmen in successive merger reviews, all of whom recognized that consumers would not be adequately protected by existing program access rules, contrary to assertions by AT&T and DirecTV. The fact that the FCC has ruled against a programmer for charging excessive fees only twice in the past 20 years attests to their lack of utility for smaller video providers filing their own complaints.
“Failure to impose adequate conditions on AT&T and DirecTV also will have a chilling effect on new and existing providers’ investments in broadband, particularly in fiber-to-the home infrastructure, as competing broadband providers will not be able to provide a viable triple-play service, which is essential to supporting broadband investment in today’s marketplace.
“Consumers deserve conditions that will stem overcharging for access to RSNs by a merged AT&T-DirecTV. Unless the FCC changes direction, consumers will suffer when the Root Sports rate increases set in, when the threat or reality of sports blackouts ahead of marquee events proliferate, and when they lag in having access to broadband at speeds comparable to other urban markets. ACA calls on the FCC to do the right thing and protect consumers and competition.”
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 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 https://acaconnects.org/