FCC proposal would eliminate local regulatory oversight

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 21 May 2015

An FCC proposal would allow US cablecos to hike rates without seeking local government approval, according to reports.

The proposal essentially means that cities, states and other localities would lose regulatory authority over basic programming packages, according to sources speaking to Bloomberg. In effect, it would remove municipal protections that cap pricing for basic channel tiers and equipment, and localities will no longer be able to force TV companies to sell packages at uniform rates.

The idea, according to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, is to make pay-TV and premium offerings more widely available by making it more attractive to launch a service in a given market. But according to Bloomberg's sources, broadcasters fear that the change would clear the way for cable providers to move must-carry local TV stations from the basic cable package to a higher tier in a bid to force consumers to upgrade. Cablecos, meanwhile, said that the change eliminates layer upon layer of bureaucracy and operational expense — efficiencies that could be passed along to consumers.

"The commission seeks a common-sense update for today's video marketplace to reduce regulatory burdens on all cable operators — large and small," Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, told Bloomberg.

Wheeler's proposal needs to win three votes at the agency. He typically can count on a Democratic majority