American Cable Association Chairman Steve Friedman said in Senate testimony today that small cable operators are encouraging the federal government to initiate a number of vital policy reforms – including more focused investment in middle-mile infrastructure and stable utility pole attachment fees – to provide small cable operators with key incentives to maintain their leadership in the provision of broadband access services to millions of Americans residing in rural communities.

Friedman testified on behalf of ACA members before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship amid concerns that consumers and small businesses in rural areas where network deployment costs are high will lag the rest of the country as the importance of the Internet-based economy to future growth and prosperity continues to accelerate.

In his testimony, Friedman offered several policy recommendations to advance rural broadband service, including greater investment in middle-mile infrastructure, a critical link between local broadband networks and the Internet backbone.

Friedman explained that rural middle-mile facilities mostly owned by third parties are expensive to access and lack adequate capacity, which slows download speeds even for consumers connected to upgraded cable broadband facilities. Cable would deploy its own middle-mile facilities, Friedman added, except that the costs are too high for an ACA member with just a few thousand subscribers to absorb.

In addition, Friedman identified rising fees to attach cable wires and routing equipment to telephone poles owned or controlled by electric cooperatives and municipalities as barriers to rural broadband investment. He added that ACA strongly supports the FCC’s recommendation in the NBP that co-ops and local governments should no longer enjoy rate regulation exemptions under the Federal Pole Attachment Act of 1978.

Lastly, Friedman called on the FCC to adopt a proposal announced last week that would allow all cable operators to offer low-cost, low?functionality HD set-top boxes as a substitute for expensive CableCARD-enabled boxes mandated under regulations in effect since July 2007.

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