“Hundreds of broadcasters are swarming Capitol Hill as we speak to block ACA’s efforts this week,” said Matthew Polka, president/CEO of the American Cable Association (ACA) as he opened the group’s annual summit, which includes trips to the FCC and Capitol Hill to plead the cases of small cable operators. “The message is simple: It’s time for change in Washington, D.C.”

The three front-burner issues for some 200 attendees this year include retrans  and Universal Service Fund reform, and access to content at a fair price.

“There is overwhelming evidence that broadcasters are using their market power to swell their bottom lines,” added ACA Chair Colleen Abdoulah, chair/CEO at WideOpenWest Internet, Phone and Cable. “"With ESPN, NBC, CBS, and FOX signing new deals with the NFL that will cost $42 billion, we know who pays for this: It will be forced down the throats of all pay-TV customers, including millions of consumers who are not sports fans. It is our hope that it won’t be long before Washington officials decide it might be appropriate to call time out and do something about this.”

She also pointed out that while the ACA supports the FCC’s decisions regarding broadband buildouts in rural areas, smaller operators should be given some leeway whrn it comes to funding.  

"Most especially, ACA will seek to ensure that the FCC does not provide USF broadband money to larger incumbents in areas where they face competition from ACA member companies that have never received a dime in USF money. Government subsidization of a competitor is wrong, unfair and a waste of scarce resources," Abdoulah concluded.

An End To Congressional Gridlock?

“Things are not going well in Washington,” lamented Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark). “Things have gotten too partisan, and there is no common sense. You’re either red or blue. This isn’t how we do things in Arkansas. We all work with each other, and you’re not seeing this in Washington. There are lots of incentives not to work together. People will get fed up with this.”

Can anything be done to end the stalemate?
 
“What it boils down to is the peoples’ will to want to do it. Politicians govern differently once they get into office that they say they will when they are campaigning,” Pryor said. “Campaigning has become an industry in this country, and the Republicans probably punish people more if they see one of their own working too closely with the other side.”

He continued, “Republican moderates are a vanishing breed. We need folks who are willing to get into the middle to gain common ground. This is totally fixable; you just have to have the will. But the current political atmosphere in Washington punishes this kind of behavior.”

Despite that initial gloom-and-doom, opening statement, Pryor did cite signs in the Senate that people may be starting to work together, like on a massive bipartisan transportation bill that just passed in that body. “We have some positive indicators that the Senate could have a pretty constructive year,” he told attendees, despite all the well-publicized infighting and the fact that this is an election year.

As part of a bipartisan jobs bill he is co-sponsoring, the senator included a six-point solution that combines 18 different issues, including regulatory reform.

“We want to change the way we regulate, and we propose three ways: Bring stakeholders in for their take on the situation, perform a cost/benefit analysis and then, when the bill is written, make sure it is the least costly way to get things done,” Pryor explained. “We’re also focusing on getting more capital for small businesses. We have a big commitment to getting broadband infrastructure built, especially in rural areas.” 

Debra Baker

The Daily

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