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CABLE SHAPES UP! Members of CableFit #teamplatform at NCTA get ready to run a St. Patrick’s Day 8K road race, spanning the U.S. Capitol grounds and National Mall on March 9, (back row, l. to r.): Julie Hance, Ethan Buch, Frank Gallagher, Kristin Buch, Steven Morris, Lisa Hamilton, Scot Donaldson, Rob Stoddard, Rick Stoddard; (front row, l. to r.): Kelly Allers, Kat Stewart, Esther Song, Carleigh Blewett, Lisa Otto.  NCTA’s team finished 11th in a field of 54.

June 28, 2011

Time to Cut the Cord on Cable Regulation?

by Morag Lucey, senior vice president/Marketing and Product Management, Convergys’ Smart Revenue Solutions

Back in 1992, Congress might have been excused for believing that the cable television industry needed regulatory oversight.  With just one major cable operator per locality, an early 1990s surge in rates, and a dearth of comparable alternatives, the cable sector seemed to many lawmakers to be far from competitive and consumer-friendly. Ergo, Congress stepped in and passed the 1992 Cable Act “to promote increased competition in the industry."

That was then, this is now. Nineteen years later everything about cable has evolved dramatically except the law, which trails along behind the industry like some antediluvian vestigial appendage.

We at Convergys see great things happening now and in the future for the cable industry — growth and innovation that were unimaginable back in 1992. Who knew then that today we would have wireless streaming? Mobile apps? The widespread expectation of tailored and on-demand content offerings? Or significant competition from OTT providers? And who can predict what incredible ideas will drive the multichannel streaming video market of tomorrow?

What was, two decades ago, a one-way flow of programming has become much more — a swirling atmosphere of content, heady with delivery innovations and immersive possibilities streaming via set-top boxes, Internet TV, tablets and smart phones, and shared via social networks that seem to multiply by the hour. Looking around at this proliferation of content and provision options, it is hard to see anything but an intensely competitive market (even the FCC now concedes the many emerging “threats ” to cable) — but one, I’d argue, that owes that 1992 Act very little.

Is it time to jettison the Act and its rules?  Industry leaders believe so, and for good reason.  Because rules are always written based on what policymakers see in the market of their time, it tends to become dated almost as quickly as it made. Policymakers aren’t expected to have the vision of their corporate counterparts such as a Steve Jobs or a Martin Cooper. World-changing ideas come from those who see a need and open their minds to the possibilities of how to meet it. Maybe copper can carry data; maybe telephones could be wireless; maybe TV could become device-agnostic, and truly be everywhere. Innovation springs from business itself, not from rulemakers, and can neither be predicted nor regulated into being.

As the NCTA argued to the FCC in early June, rules like those stemming from the 1992 relic bear no relation to the reality of today’s cable market. That’s because technology moved faster — and in directions that Congress and the FCC never saw coming.

What are your thoughts — is it time to “cut the cord” on cable regulation?

Comments (5) for "Time to Cut the Cord on Cable Regulation?"
Yes. It\'s time to cut the cord. Cable TV competition? What is it? We have on Cable provider in our area. We have no other choice. They make changes to programming channels constantly and there is little we can do about it.
Posted by D Wright on Thursday, June 30, 2011 @ 09:00 AM
Instead of getting rid of theat huge cluster of regulations, we should replace it with a more streamlined system. Cable is ridiculously expensive and without regulation would go higher. The fact I can watch the same shows I see on my living room TV and my cell phone doesn\'t mean the cell phone is a viable alternative.
Posted by Mark Albrecht on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 @ 08:05 AM
It is time for it to go. It is antiquated and does not help the consumer at all. There are many alternatives to cable for video, internet, an phone that it should be up to the cable provider to supply a quality system and should not be regulated to do so. If a customer is not satisfied with their video now, they go to dish. That was not the case in 1992. The competitive environment forcing quality has done a better job than the Cable Act anyway.
Posted by J litten on Friday, July 8, 2011 @ 03:36 PM
I don’t believe they will get rid of the regulation no matter what is said. but the fare thing would be to hold all video providers to the same standards that old cable companies are held to. Dish and old phone companies that offer TV are not forced to put the Public education and government channels that Old cable companies are. This cost them money to put out there with no return and as everyone knows in the long run someone will pay for it (consumers always pay for it in the end)
Posted by will on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 @ 07:13 AM
It is obviously immpossibe for the FCC to stay up to date in the video market so yes, cut the cord. If consumers want government price control then start regulating the TV networks. They are the biggest reason for price increases. And apply the same regulation to all video providers not just CATV.
Posted by T Knutson on Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 02:48 PM

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