Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

FCC’s Robert McDowell Addresses a Number of Issues Important to the Cable Industry

Newly appointed FCC member Robert McDowell supports agency involvement to ensure that phone companies can enter local cable-TV markets without having to overcome a lot of red tape. On August 8, during his first meeting with reporters at FCC headquarters, McDowell said “I do think we can do a lot to help speed the deployment of video penetration and marry it up with that broadband penetration by clearing some of that regulatory underbrush.”
Addressing a number of issues important to the cable industry, McDowell said multicast-must-carry requirements were beyond FCC authority; network-neutrality regulation of the Internet was premature; and more a la carte programming options would likely emerge as a result of consumer demand. On net neutrality, he said it was unclear what form government regulation of broadband-access providers would take because charges of misconduct have been speculative. McDowell joined the FCC on June 1 to give the GOP a 3-2 advantage at the agency for the first time since March 2005. Although he said his regulatory philosophy was market-oriented, he supports government intervention to correct market failures. On cable franchising, FCC chairman Kevin Martin supports imposing a deadline on local governments to act on applications. But the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (“NCTA”), disputing that local governments have been slow to act, has told the FCC that the courts are the proper forum to settle franchising disputes.

McDowell suggested disagreement with the NCTA by asserting that the FCC “does have that authority” over local government. However, he cautioned that the Commission should wait a few months to see whether Congress addressed the issue. According to McDowell, FCC involvement should preserve a meaningful role for local officials.

For more information contact:

Olev Jaakson at ojaakson@dbmlawgroup.com.