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Help! We're being crushed, cry billionaire cable giants

Monstrous FCC blasted for floating notion of 'competition'

By Shaun Nichols, 16 May 2016

US cable carriers are crying foul against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over what they say are overbearing and heavy-handed regulations being placed on their market.

Speaking at an event in Boston, Michael Powell - CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and former FCC chairman - said that the Commission was putting undue pressure on cable providers by overstepping its bounds on regulation.

"The policy blows we are weathering are not modest regulatory corrections," Powell said

"They have been thundering, tectonic shifts that have crumbled decades of settled law and policy."

The industry lobbyist said that while the FCC should seek to promote competition in the cable market, it should do so by easing regulations and encouraging new competitors, though Powell himself acknowledged the US cable market has been consolidating significantly as of late.

"What has been so distressing is that much of this regulatory ordinance has been launched without provocation," Powell said.

"We increasingly are saddled with heavy rules without any compelling evidence of harm to consumers or competitors."

One such issue is the recent decision to open the market to third-party vendors of set-top boxes. That decision has faced stiff opposition from cable providers, who argue that opening up their services to new hardware will not improve prices for consumers.

One of those carriers is Comcast, who recently told the FCC that the only way it can accommodate third-party hardware is to use the box-less streaming TV platform MVPD software it debuted last month.

In a letter to FCC secretary Marlene Dortch, Comcast makes its case against third-party hardware boxes.

"In response to questions from Commission staff, we explained that running our network code directly on third-party devices without our application was not feasible for a variety of reasons, including, among other things, that MVPDs deploy very different network infrastructures," the letter read.

The FCC has shown no signs of letting up on its set-top box plans. ®

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