The time has come for cable to finally shed the monopoly stigma that persists despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, NCTA says. A case in point: the number of DirecTV/EchoStar subs increased from 20.36mln to 22.8mln between June ’03 and April ’04, an rise of 12% in only 9 months. Cable subs increased just 1% to 71.1mln, from 70.5mln, during the same period, NCTA says. Last year’s FCC annual competition report was the 1st time the agency stopped calling cable the dominant player and started referring to it as predominant. "This year it is time-indeed time is past due-to fully acknowledge the reality that the market for the delivery of video programming is characterized by ‘vigorous rivalry among multiple MVPDs offering closely substitutable services,’ in the words of the FCC’s 2nd Annual Report in ’95," the NCTA concludes in comments for 11th FCC competition report, which is due to Congress by year-end. In its filing, DirecTV swats away stats, noting that while DBS ops are among the largest MVPDs, "they collectively control only a very small share of every individual market in which they compete." DirecTV devotes much of its filing to the familiar terrestrial loophole argument, saying Cox only makes Channel 4 in San Diego available to cable ops, while Comcast has made "patently outrageous carriage demands" for Comcast SportsNet Philly. Perennial whiner and bankrupt overbuilder RCN adds that only when the loophole is closed will "all consumers be assured of an increase in choices, with respect to both service providers and programming."

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