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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

Cable Act Rewrite Could Be Coming In Next Congress

photo of Adam  Mazmanian
June 27, 2012

As the market for home video services grows increasingly competitive, House Republicans are hinting at overhauling 20-year-old rules that govern pay-TV. 

Since the Cable Act of 1992, satellite, fiber-line services from Verizon and AT&T and providers that work over home broadband connections, like Netflix, have eroded cable’s share of the pay-TV market from above 90 percent to below 60 percent.

In that context, according to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich, and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who chairs the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, rules like “must carry” that require pay-TV providers to present local, over-the-air broadcast channels, and “program access” under which programmers that are affiliated with cable networks must offer their programming to competing platforms, appear increasingly archaic.

 

At a hearing of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on the video delivery landscape held Wednesday, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said, “I know it’s too late to do a major bill in this Congress, but I hope in the next Congress, we take this up.”

With so many new and interconnected players in the growing video landscape, any change to the current law has a lot of moving parts. With a regulatory scrum potentially in the offing, established players were quick to try to secure their ground while upstarts looked keep their place at the table.

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said the scales were tipped unfairly in favor of broadcasters where retransmission negotiations were concerned. He also spoke on behalf of his plans to repurpose satellite spectrum for terrestrial use in a mobile network, which is currently awaiting a decision at the Federal Communications Commission.

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