WASHINGTON April 12, 2011 – The American Cable Association (ACA) held its annual summit on Tuesday, featuring a keynote speech by Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
Matt Polka, President of the American Cable Association, opened the event by highlighting how the ACA helped to protect the rights of small cable providers in the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. He also urged the members to provide data to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s National Broadband Map.
“This is an important project and by providing the government with the necessary data they will be better equipped to see the gaps in the service,” Polka said.
Commissioner Clyburn commended the assembled crowd of small cable operators calling small businesses “the engines that run this country.”
“Rural residents are as deserving of high speed broadband and HDTV as any Manhattan-ite,” Clyburn said, praising the cable operators for bringing service to rural areas.
Clyburn then called on the cable operators to help the Commission deal with the issues surrounding retransmission agreements. Retransmission consent agreements are the agreements between cable companies the networks that set the price the cable companies must pay to the networks to transmit the networks’content.
Over the past few years, those negotiations have become increasingly hostile. Fox, for example, blacked out access to its content last autumn while negotiating with Cablevision in New York.
The commissioner reassured the audience saying that she understands the issue and how it directly affects small business and the public.
“We want the market to work without intervention, however, if we see consumers being hurt and harm being done we would want to step in,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn then joked that she would be grateful if someone can build a time machine and go back to 1992 and improve the regulations set into the Cable Act.
NTIA Chief of Staff, Thomas Power, presented an overview of the National Broadband Map and echoed Polka’s request for additional information from cable providers. He also addressed the critiques the map has been given for lacking accuracy.
“We have just recently received the latest round of data from the states and already we have seen an improvement in the level of accuracy,” Powers said.
The map will be updated in August.
Powers also said that many of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant winners have already completed their required environmental reviews and are moving forward. Most of the training programs, however, have already begun and have provided communities with more than 65,000 hours of training. Additionally 4,000 computers have been installed in public computing centers.
Zac Katz, a legal advisor in the Office of the Chairman at the FCC, provided a brief overview of how the Commission has been working on implementing the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan.
“To further the expansion of wireless broadband we recently approved an order on pole attachments which will make it much easier to install radios,” Katz said.
This new order sets a firm timetable during which utilities must respond to the attachment requests. Previously utilities would either ignore or take months to respond to requests.
Katz also spoke about the importance of spectrum for future economic growth and how the looming crunch can be averted through proactive policy solutions.
“We know a crunch will happen if action is not taken to free up more spectrum,” Katz commented. “But we have to look at improving sharing technologies and work on exploring additional uses for the unlicensed bands.”
The final panel of the event brought together a group of Congressional staffers who predicted that cyber security and spectrum would become issues over the next few months.
“Over the next year spectrum policy is going to be gaining more traction in addition to privacy,” said Jack Smedile, Legislative Assistant to Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “Cyber security will also be addressed but since the issue spans so many different committees it is going to take some careful thought before tackling it.”