Cable360AM — News briefing for Wednesday, Nov. 28 »

Cable’s lobbyists, in particular NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow, scored a victory in Washington, D.C., last night, ending, for now, FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s plans to expand the commission’s powers over cable operators.

At an FCC hearing scheduled for yesterday morning but not held until late in the evening, commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Robert McDowell successfully argued against Martin’s claim that the cable industry had gotten too large and needed to be regulated, saying the FCC chairman had used misleading data, the New York Times reports.

Martin, unable to get a majority of the five-member commission to vote that cable operators were too dominant, tabled the issue at the meeting and was ultimately blocked from getting nearer to his twin goals of enforced a la carte delivery of programming and imposed arbitration between disputing operators and programmers.

CableFAX Daily reports that Adelstein "blasted the video competition report process, claiming that FCC data that contradicted that the 70/70 rule had been met was ‘suppressed.’" The commission did approve a proposal that will lessen the cost for independent programmers to lease access to cable channels. [New York Times] [CableFAX Daily’s breaking news bulletin from 11:54pm ET Tues is reprinted below]

Verizon Wireless announced that it will allow its customers to use many different kinds of phones on its network. This new open policy will likely begin next summer. [New York Times]

AT&T added new features to its U-verse TV service in Houston, among them, a customizable information bar, Yellowpages.com TV and AT&T Yahoo Games. [CNNMoney]

Jake Gyllanhaal has signed on to play Super Bowl III hero Joe Namath in a Universal Pictures movie based on the quarterback’s life, Variety reports. As soon as the writers’ strike is over a script will be written. [Variety]

NCTA To Show New Orleans That Cable Cares
The cable industry will repay New Orleans for hosting a record 8 cable conventions with an umbrella program of community service called CableCares, NCTA said today. The main projects will include: rebuilding playgrounds, rebuilding libraries, bringing schools back, a Battle of the Cable bands fundraiser, The Sportsman Channel’s Hunt, Fish, Feed initiative, and a bike tour fundraiser.

Cox will play a lead role with 10 other cable operators (Bresnan Communications, Bright House Networks, Cable ONE, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast, Insight Communications, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Time Warner Cable) and the nation’s largest interconnect, Adlink, to cumulatively commit at least $12 million in donated advertising time on their networks to the New Orleans Tourism Initiative. More information about New Orleans CableCares volunteer opportunities, or to offer suggestions for other programs, email can be sent to: Cablecares@ncta.com, or contact NCTA’s industry affairs department at: 202-222-2430.

CableFAX Daily’s Breaking News Bulletin (Tuesday, 11:54pm ET)

It was a long night at the FCC, with a meeting slated to begin
at 9:30am ET getting under way nearly 12 hours late and ending around
11pm.

A divided commission voted to approve a video competition report
that does not conclude that the 70/70 test has been met. The FCC voted
to collect data directly from cable operators to determine whether the
industry has 70% penetration of cable homes passed. The Commission did not vote on a proposal that would have allowed govt arbitration in
programming disputes. As expected, it approved slashing leased access
rates up to 75%.

Democratic commish Jonathan Adelstein blasted the video competition report process, claiming that FCC data that contradicted that the 70/70 rule had been met was "suppressed." Commissioners weren’t given access to the ’06 subscriber numbers that cable operators provided to the FCC through Form 325 until about 7pm Mon night, he said.

"They tried to hide the ball from their own team," Adelstein said, noting that the data finds cable’s penetration is at 54%. He said the FCC’s own data was "mysteriously redacted" in the initial draft report that commissioners were given. Instead, that draft relied solely on data from Warren Communications, he said.

Republican commish Robert McDowell expressed similar concerns, saying the Warren data was used because "this flawed anomaly was the only fig leaf that could be found in an attempt to trigger an avalanche of unnecessary regulation to cascade down upon on an otherwise competitive industry."

FCC chmn Kevin Martin defended the report. He said data was not suppressed—it just wasn’t asked for. "The Commissioner’s office wasn’t asked for it until yesterday after lunch," he said. Warren data was only included in the initial draft because the Commission was proposing that it’s the most accurate and precise data out there, he added.

"In the end, I think what’s important, despite all the fighting back and forth about whether the 70 percent benchmark has been met or not, is we’re all going to move forward and ask the industry to provide the data," Martin said.

The FCC wants cable operators to provide data for 2006 and 2007 on how many homes they pass, how many of those homes pass have 36 or more channels available, how many total subs they have and how many total subs they have with 36 or more channels.

McDowell objected to the collection of this data, calling it "illogical and dubious" since ’06 data has already been collected from all but small cable ops. Those ops don’t keep this data and can’t provide it, he said. "Will this resulting gap in data later be used as a basis to concoct projections that the 70/70 threshold has been met? Stay tuned," McDowell said.

NCTA’s Kyle McSlarrow said the industry "welcomes the opportunity to supply and rely on the best available data," adding that cable systems representing more than 75% of all subs annually already report total subs and homes passed to the FCC. "Additional data will confirm that the Commission was correct in rejecting the 70/70 finding today."

McSlarrow applauded the commissioners who questioned the data (Adelstein, McDowell and Deborah Taylor Tate) and said the FCC’s time would be better spent helping the country get ready for the DTV transition or working to roll out broadband to all Americans.
Yesterday’s 360AM
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• Got a tip? Email sgoldstein@accessintel.com.

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