Report: FCC Analysis Supports Less Cable Regulation

Published April 1, 2009

A recent report by the Progress & Freedom Foundation says the Federal Communications Commission’s own research undercuts the agency’s rationale for imposing additional regulations on cable providers.

The Washington, DC-based think tank’s report said a February FCC analysis of annual video competition in 2006—though it uses two-year-old data—documents a steady trend of increasing competition among video service providers and increasing sources of diverse information and video programming.

Choice Burgeoning

In her white paper for the Progress & Freedom Foundation, Senior Fellow Barbara Esbin notes the FCC report shows cable competition is growing, consumer choice among diverse sources of video programming and information is increasing, and cable operators and other providers are offering an increasing array of video and non-video services.

“By nearly every relevant indicator contained in the [FCC report], the market for the delivery of video programming continues to become more and more competitive—both from traditional like DBS and telephone company video providers, and increasingly, through video programming available over the Internet,” Esbin said.

Web Adds More Competition

Daniel Ballon, a technology policy fellow at the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, notes some people are getting rid of traditional video entirely and are using, YouTube, and network- and producer-sponsored Web sites to view content over the Internet.

In addition, phone companies such as Verizon, through its FiOS offering, and AT&T, through its U-verse service, are entering the market.

Even More Options

Steve Titch, a telecom analyst for the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles, notes programs not available via streaming or archived video are typically available on DVD a few months after the original release.

“Television is no longer the sole source of video. It’s among a growing number of choices,” Titch said. He noted more wireless companies will likely enter the fray as well, as consumers buy more phones and services offering video capabilities.

Under former FCC chairman Kevin Martin there was a greater push for regulation, Titch said. But now with new leadership at the commission, the press for more regulation may wane.

‘The Market Is Working’

“There’s no reason to have the regulation; the market is working,” Titch said.

While the offerings are a little different from provider to provider and from technology to technology, Titch said, there’s no reason such differences shouldn’t exist.

“Part of the problem with government regulations is that they try to force competition in part by forcing a uniformity of offerings,” Titch said. “That limits competition. There’s a growing, diverse market for the distribution of video” without need for government intervention, he said.

Phil Britt ([email protected]) writes from South Holland, Illinois.

For more information …

“A Tale of Two Reports,” January 30, 2009, Barbara Esbin, Progress & Freedom Foundation: