FCC cable regulation stumbles

Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has backed down, for now, from his effort to expand regulatory control over the cable industry after failing to secure backing from fellow regulators.

The FCC had planned to vote on a report that found companies such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable had reached a large enough share of the US population to allow the government to impose new regulatory powers. The commission voted to approve the release of the report to Congress and the public without concluding that the 70/70 threshold had been reached, FCC spokesman David Fiske said. The agency will require cable operators to provide subscriber data within 60 days after the report appears in the Federal Register.

The cable industry fought hard against Martin's 70/70 rule on market reach, whereby 70 per cent of US households have access to cable systems with 36 or more channels, and 70 per cent of those households subscribe. A measure cable companies regarded as a further step in his campaign to damage the sector due to its refusal to allow customers to pay for programming on a channel-by-channel basis.

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