FCC now limiting cable's size

Coming off a setback on its attempt to trigger tighter regulation, the head of the Federal Communications Commission has moved quickly to propose the FCC adopt a rule that would prevent Comcast, the nation's biggest cable company, from becoming larger.

Officials said that Kevin Martin notified other commissioners this week of the agenda for the agency's next formal meeting on December 18, and that it included a vote on his proposal to prohibit a cable company from controlling more than 30 per cent of the market. Comcast is at about that level.

The proposal would also defer a final vote on a related plan to restrict a cable television company from providing more than 40 per cent of its channels with shows from its affiliated programmers.

Martin has long complained that cable rates have risen significantly faster than inflation over the last decade. He also has said that there was not enough competition in the marketplace and that the cable companies have erected impediments to more diverse programming. He has urged the cable companies to offer à la carte plans that would let their customers pay only for the channels they watch.

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