The American Cable Association has been holding its annual Washington Summit for 21 years, each one adding a new chapter to the independent cable community's rich history of achievement. This year's event will be truly spectacular. Up front, I want to thank our D.C. policymakers–Rep. Anna G. Eshoo and Rep. Peter Welch, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler–for agreeing to speak to us Wednesday on a range of key matters.
ACA members coming to Washington this week believe that after years of hard work and dedication, our time is now to achieve meaningful change.
We are delighted the FCC is poised to prevent separately owned, top-rated TV stations in the same market from colluding in the sale of retransmission consent and in staging signal blackouts. ACA led in drawing attention to this collusion issue. In a recent letter to the FCC, the Department of Justice supported ACA, arguing that broadcaster retrans collusion is flagrantly anti-competitive in almost every case imaginable.
ACA is also leading on ensuring that FCC rules provide a buying group like the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) the ability to access the pro-competitive program access rules. Today, NCTC is unable to challenge unfair acts or practices by vertically integrated cable programmers. FCC action will take on even greater importance given Comcast's $45 billion deal to buy Time Warner Cable. The time is now for the FCC to update its rules to protect customers of smaller video providers and their buying group.
On Capitol Hill, ACA has been the “canary in the coal mine” for years in calling for reform of the video marketplace. By year end, Congress is expected to renew the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010. Our concerns are part of that debate, and the time is now for a bipartisan commitment to update retransmission consent and protect consumers from broadcasters' blackmail-or-blackout tactics.
We proudly support Rep. Anna Eshoo's (D-Calif.) Video CHOICE Act. Her bill (H.R. 3719) would allow cable operators to place the retrans stations on a separate tier, ensuring that consumers can purchase cable television service without subscribing to these broadcast stations. Importantly, the Eshoo bill would give the FCC explicit authority to halt a broadcaster blackout.
We also proudly supported Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) on his reintroduction of the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act (H.R. 3720), which would repeal outdated laws governing the video marketplace. Scalise's deregulatory approach would, like Congresswoman Eshoo's legislation, benefit consumers and competition in many ways.
We know both lawmakers are on the right track because the National Association of Broadcasters is doing all it can to scuttle any retransmission consent reform efforts.
Finally, the time is now to look ahead. ACA members support governmental action to bring broadband to all communities and want to be part of this effort. Where ACA members can bring broadband to unserved areas, the government should support their efforts. At the same time, the government should not subsidize our competitors in the build-out of their networks. When we spend our own capital to bring broadband and other services to communities, there is absolutely no reason for the government to step in. Not only does it discourage private investment, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
At ACA, we're back in DC for #Summit21. Our time is now.