TIA urges FCC to exert authority over video programming market

Feb. 14, 2006
Feb. 14, 2006 - Association wants to ensure that competitive video delivery providers can offer consumers an additional choice of new and innovative video services.

The Telecommunications Industry Association today filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency to exert its national authority over the video programming market to help ensure that competitive video delivery providers have a reasonable opportunity to offer consumers an additional choice of new and innovative video services as quickly as feasible.

The FCC is examining the bounds of its authority under Title VI of the Communications Act, as amended, in an effort to continue its efforts to promote investment in next-generation broadband networks.

"The commission in recent years has made great strides in removing roadblocks to broadband investment," says TIA President Matthew Flanigan. "This is another one it can and should address.

"Network providers need to offer at least the 'triple play' of voice, data and video to justify the large-scale investments needed to bring very high-speed connectivity to consumers," Flanigan continues. "Without question, and whether intentional or not, the tens of thousands of local franchise authorities present a real impediment to achieving this. National standards can help to move the process along much more quickly, and in the process, make easier the difficult job that local authorities must undertake."

In its comments, the TIA urges the FCC to declare that efforts by local franchise authorities to impose obligations beyond those expressly permitted by Section 621 of the Communications Act constitute unreasonable refusals to award a competitive franchise under this section. Flanigan says the TIA's comments demonstrate that not only does the agency have unquestioned authority under U.S. Supreme Court and appellate court precedent to adopt rules interpreting this language, but it must do so in a manner that advances Congress's core goals of promoting broadband deployment and video competition. For example, the TIA argues the FCC must find that delay and excessive demands by local franchise authorities undercut those goals since they unquestionably diminish broadband deployment and video competition.

The TIA notes in the comments that since recent Texas state legislation generally is consistent with Section 621, it should be presumed workable everywhere and any similarly modeled legislation should be treated as a "safe harbor." Conversely, the comments recommend that the FCC should declare that any local franchise authority that unduly delays action on a competitive franchise application or demands additional concessions has unreasonably refused to grant a competitive franchise. Because such conduct violates Section 621, it would be automatically preempted under Section 636 as well as longstanding conflict preemption doctrine, the TIA argues.

The TIA is based in Arlington, VA. For more information visit www.tiaonline.org

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