ACA Descends on DC

April 9, 2014
The American Cable Association stormed Washington, DC, last week armed with statistics, a Supreme...
The American Cable Association stormed Washington, DC, last week armed with statistics, a Supreme Court brief, and satisfaction over recent actions by the FCC on retransmission consent, a hot-button issue for the ACA and its members.

"Retransmission consent is the law of the land," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said at the ACA Summit. "Congress has spoken, period. The way retrans was being implemented, however, moved it off the concept that Congress had developed, which was one-on-one negotiations."

Specifically, new FCC regulations will go into effect at the end of April that will prohibit separately owned top-four broadcasters within a market from negotiating retransmission consent agreements together.

This is a win for the ACA, which has worked for the past four years to draw attention to what it has felt amounted to collusion on the part of TV stations. ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka asked Wheeler why he chose to address the issue, when other FCC chairmen seemed to consider the issue "radioactive."

"It was the eloquence of your arguments," Wheeler joked.

Addressing another issue of concern to ACA members, on April 2 the association filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to side in favor of Aereo in a case that will determine whether the company's online TV technology is legal. It provides consumers access to a cloud-based over-the-air antenna and DVR so that they can watch broadcast TV on myriad devices using their broadbandInternet access. ACA believes the outcome of the case could impact members' ability to partner with third parties for technology beyond that which they can develop in-house.

"Members of the public are entitled to watch and hear any over-the-air broadcast transmission that they are capable of receiving. The copyright holder's exclusive right extends only to the right to do or to authorize the public performance," Polka said. The brief asked the court to uphold that if a consumer can time-shift a broadcast using a DVR at home, he or she should be able to do the same thing using a remote DVR owned by a third party.

The goal of the Summit is to highlight the role independent operators play. In line with this, the ACA also released a white paper, "Connecting Hometown America: How the Small Operators of ACA are having a Big Impact." The research indicated that while separately ACA members may be small, together they are mighty.

No ACA member has more than 1 million subscribers. The median number of video subscribers per member is 1,060. However, as a whole, the 843 members serve 7 million customers and 7% of the multichannel video programming distributor subscribers in the country.

"(That's) more than Cox Cable and Bright House Networks put together. That's pretty substantial," Polka said. He added that the combined revenue of ACA members was $11.5 billion in 2012, which approaches that of Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) and Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) combined.

Another statistic highlighted in the report is the fact that ACA members have built broadband to 1.6 million homes designated as "uneconomic" by the FCC. "Without any government funding, our cable members decided it was worth the risk to build out networks to these homes," Polka said.

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].