As long promised, ACA lobbed a grenade yesterday it hopes will start a retransmission consent firestorm at the FCC. The small and rural cable group petitioned the Commission to start a rulemaking on changing retrans rules (see item below). But there were fightin’ words from big boys, too. Cox, Insight and Advance/Newhouse filed comments late Tues blaming the Big 4 broadcast nets for much of the rise in cable rates-although they didn’t ask for a retrans overhaul. Still, the 50-page filing blasts ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, accusing them of using retrans to grow their cable brands at the expense of their broadcast affiliates. "Presently, the Big 4 continue to leverage retrans consent in order to gain carriage of channels of affiliated cable channels at higher rates and on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been the case had those channels been required to compete solely on their own merits," they said. Fox reportedly plans to use retrans consent to spur negotiations of Fox Reality Channel, they said. ABC/Disney and Viacom/CBS have similar plans for ESPNU and Logo and NBC reportedly will make NBC Weather Plus a key condition of retrans deals. The Big 4’s programming networks have tripled from 18.2% to 56.5% since ’93, with ownership of 10 of the 15 top-rated channels. "The govt-created retransmission consent scheme has been leveraged by the Big 4 networks to become the largest force in multichannel video programming and to fuel the continued expansion of the size and price of the most popular tier of MVPD service. The Commission’s Report to Congress should clearly reflect this reality."