Explains Trade Group’s Involvement In and Support For Universal Service Fund Reform
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 12, 2011 – American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka threw ACA’s support behind the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to use Universal Service Fund money for the first time to advance universal and affordable broadband, highlighting ACA’s involvement in an issue that reflects the business diversity of the trade group’s membership.
“In general, ACA supports the creation of a competitively neutral fund,” Polka said. “Our members offer a video service but most also offer data and voice. No longer does ACA focus just on video issues,” Polka said.
Polka said he is hopeful that the FCC will agree that the program’s high-cost fund should be capped at year-end 2010 levels; that support should not flow to areas where there are competitive providers offering service without using support; and that a sufficient transition for smaller telephone companies now drawing high-cost support is necessary.
“USF reform should provide smaller local telecommunications entities now drawing from the fund with sufficient time to adjust to the newly reformed program. ACA suggests that, for a period of eight years, the FCC should permit smaller telephone companies to receive USF support if they agree to deploy broadband service,” Polka said.
ACA supports using reverse auctions in unserved areas, he said, adding that these auctions should be based solely upon objective criteria. “ACA won’t stand for the beauty contest-like process that was conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) with broadband stimulus dollars,” Polka said.
Polka addressed the hot-botton USF reform issue to help launch ACA’s 18th Summit in Washington, D.C., the leading educational conference for small, independent cable operators to interact with regulatory officials and Capitol Hill lawmakers as well as discuss the unique challenges of providing world-class communications services in rural America. Scheduled speakers include FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Or.).
In his remarks (attached), Polka also touched on ACA’s unprecedented 13-month effort to apply regulatory conditions to the $30 billion Comcast-NBC Universal merger, which eventually received government approval in January 2011.
“Our work is not finished. ACA plans to stay actively involved in the coming years to ensure that Comcast-NBCU adheres to the letter and spirit of the merger conditions as they are being implemented,” Polka said.
ACA thanked FCC Chairman Genachowski for responding to independent cable’s concerns about the most significant media transaction in nearly a decade.
“But I would like to note here that ACA is especially grateful to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, our ACA Summit FCC Keynote Speaker,” Polka said. “Commission Clyburn proposed robust conditions and then stood her ground, ensuring that Comcast-NBCU can’t run roughshod over ACA members that traditionally utilize a bargaining agent to negotiate for access to key programming services for distribution over traditional and online media networks.”
Commissioner Clyburn successfully amended the original merger order of the FCC Transaction Team to include remedies specifically aimed at protecting ACA members from harms associated with the Comcast-NBCU merger.
Specifically, the FCC adopted three key remedies for smaller pay-TV operators:
- First, pay-TV providers with up to 1.5 million video subscribers can jointly designate a bargaining agent;
- Second, pay-TV providers with 600,000 or fewer video subscribers can recover their arbitration costs from Comcast-NBCU if they win their arbitration; and
- Third, the FCC established rules to ensure pay-TV providers and potentially over-the-top online platforms can gain access to online content from Comcast-NBCU.
Polka also updated ACA members on a number of important regulatory developments, including FCC implementation of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, which requires cable operators to curb abrupt spikes in sound volume when commercials interrupt regular programming. He also discussed FCC regulations on the insertion of video descriptions in TV programming to assist the blind, pursuant to the Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.
Lastly, Polka commented on the FCC’s AllVid rulemaking, which envisions a CableCARD replacement that would encourage competition in the retail market for smart set-top boxes that are compatible with cable, satellite TV, and IPTV.
ACA members, Polka noted, need to prepare for the federal government’s first-ever national test of Emergency Alert Service (EAS) sometime in the future, though no date has been set. He also advised that the FCC’s Open Internet Rules are scheduled to take effect later this year and that ACA members had to be in compliance upon the arrival of the effective date.
Regarding broadband reporting requirements, Polka reminded ACA members of the importance of providing the locations where they offer broadband so the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration have accurate data to include in NTIA’s national broadband map.
“The government should not accidentally support broadband overbuilders of ACA members because it lacked accurate data,” Polka said.
Hundreds of ACA members gathered for this year’s Summit in support of their message that good policymaking ensures that rural companies serving high-cost areas are treated fairly in the marketplace and not overburdened by regulations, so they may continue to supply affordable communications services to their communities. For more, please visit: ACA Summit.org
About the American Cable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.6 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/