What’s your beef with cable? That was the gist of a letter to FCC chmn Kevin Martin by the top 2 Republicans on the House Commerce cmte. "We are disturbed that with respect to the cable industry, you appear to be making proposals that are leading the Commission precisely down the road of intrusive regulation when it is least justified," Reps Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) wrote Tues. The letter comes 1 day before the FCC is slated to vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking that would force cable operators to carry must-carry stations’ digital and analog signals after the DTV transition if their systems weren’t completely digital (most won’t be). It also comes a day after the latest leak from the FCC’s long-awaited violence report that is due to Congress. In addition to pushing a la carte, the report also concludes that the govt has the authority to regulate extensive violence and extend its reach for the 1st time to basic cable, the Washington Post reports. Plus, there’s Martin’s multicast must-carry leasing scheme, the set-top integration ban, a 30% cable ownership cap and a video franchise reform order that didn’t apply to cable—all issues rattled off by Barton and Upton. Noting the drop in homes served by cable over the years and the FCC’s declaration of effective competition in many areas of the country, the 2 write, "This makes all the more peculiar some of your statements calling for increased regulation of the cable industry." The issue of dual carriage slated for a vote Wed has been rejected by the FCC a few times over the years. Because it is an NPRM, the item would not set any new rules—just seek comment on potential new rules. But cable has raised concerns that the notice may go a step further and reach premature conclusions. Barton and Upton echoed that stance. "Our hope is that if there must be yet another item seeking comments on dual carriage, it would do so in a neutral fashion, without suggesting conclusions in advance, and would consider a variety of options, as well as the implications of the integrated set-top box band," they wrote. An FCC spokesman said the agency is reviewing the letter. Meanwhile, watchdogs Common Cause and Campaign Legal Center have written commissioners urging them to vote against expanding the rules until it defines broadcasters’ public interest obligations. "Do not put the cart before the horse and issue a ruling on dual must carry before digital public interest obligations are resolved," the letter said.

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