Comcast vowed this week to seek reconsideration of a decision of the FCC’s Media Bureau to reinstate basic cable rate regulation in the city of Boston, asserting that Comcast “faces real competition every day in Boston from DirecTV, DISH Network and RCN.” Monday’s Bureau’s ruling responds to a petition, filed by the City of Boston, in which the city’s government pointed to the failure of local exchange carrier (LEC) RCN to expand sufficiently its multichannel video service coverage in the Boston area to satisfy FCC rules. In 2001, Comcast’s predecessor in Boston was found by the FCC to face effective competition—and was thus exempted from local cable rate regulation—on grounds that RCN would eventually satisfy a “substantial overlap” requirement. In its order granting the city’s request, however, the Bureau observed that, “due to a lack of capital, RCN’s buildout halted,” resulting in coverage of only 32.1% of Boston’s video households. Pointing to RCN’s current one-third coverage of Comcast’s cable franchise area, “combined with the impossibility of the LEC expanding,” the Bureau thus decreed that the evidence “[amounts] to a clear showing that the reasons for the earlier revocation of the City’s authority are no longer valid.” Objecting to the Bureau’s action, Comcast argued that RCN’s current video subscriber base, consisting of 15% of Boston’s households, when combined with the Boston area customers of DISH Network and DirectTV, is sufficient for Comcast to be exempt from local rate regulation under the tenets of the FCC’s “competing provider” test. While promising to seek review “as soon as possible,” a Comcast official further stressed that “Boston cannot re-regulate until the Commission acts on” his company’s petition for reconsideration.
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FCC reinstates basic cable rate regulation in Boston
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