Broadcasters sue FCC over cable competition ruling


Michelle Clancy

| 01 September 2015

The FCC has been hit with a lawsuit from broadcasters challenging its June "effective competition" ruling, which presumes competition for cable operators in every market.

The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) and the local Minnesota Franchise Authority have filed the suit in federal court. They argue that competition is not present in all markets, and that states, cities and other local authorities should be able to force cable operators to prove they have competition in their market in order to avoid rate regulation.

The FCC says that cable TV has direct competition in all US markets from satellite operators DirecTV and DISH Network, making oversight of the issue obsolete.

The broadcasters argue that the move opens the door to a slippery slope in which cable operators will be allowed to run roughshod over. "In our view, the commission's decision - made over the objection of two commissioners - was bad for consumers and wrong on the law," said Scott Goodwin, associate general counsel of NAB, and Steve Traylor, executive director and general counsel of NATOA, in a joint blog post. "Unfortunately, this action appears to be only the first step that the commission may take that gives cable operators - yes, cable operators - more leeway in and less oversight over their customer service."

They added: "Not only did the FCC vote to disable an important check on cable companies at the local level, but now it is weighing whether to dismantle part of our nation's localised system of broadcasting, which ensures that every local community has relevant news and information available to them. This trend is even more disturbing in light of cable's rapid consolidation and truly dismal customer service record."