In comments filed with the FCC, cable operators represented by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) cited expanding competition in the video program delivery market in urging the FCC to refrain from enacting new regulations with respect to program access. While acknowledging that video competition is spreading, however, emerging multichannel video providers such as Verizon told the FCC that regulatory intervention is needed to ensure that market entrants receive fair access to regional sports and other high-demand programming that they require to compete effectively. Last week, NCTA, Verizon Communications, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTC) and a host of other parties responded to the FCC’s request for comments on a supplemental notice of inquiry in which the agency requested data on the status of the U.S. market for video program delivery between 2008 and 2009. The FCC intends to combine the information it gathers with the results of its 2007 survey and to submit that data to Congress as part of the FCC’s updated annual report on video competition. Citing statistics that show incumbent cable providers’ share of the U.S. multichannel video market “has dropped from 68.17% in June 2006 to 63.5% and in some regions . . . is below 50%,” NCTA emphasized to the FCC that “consumers now have more programming channels, more services and more choices of video providers than ever before.” As such, NCTA argued that “the data gathered in this catch-up inquiry will make clear that . . . anticompetitive concerns have been overtaken.” NCTA’s claims were buttressed in part by statistics, provided by NTC, showing that 259 of 581 rural incumbent telcos belonging to NTC now offer “video via coaxial cable” and that another 83 rural NTC members provide video service via direct broadcast satellite. NTC nevertheless complained that “rural carriers have been stymied in their efforts to obtain quality, affordable programming” and that “competition is being hampered because of bundling, tying and forced tiering by program providers.” Accordingly, NTC urged the FCC to “enhance competition by addressing the bargaining inequities threatening small video providers’ viability.” While admitting that video competition is “spreading,” Verizon asked the FCC to address competitive access to regional sports and other “must-have” programming and other issues of concern that relate to parity between cable and other wireline video providers.
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