Video Reform Coalition Announces New Effort, Releases Survey Results at INCOMPAS PLUS

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hillary Crowder, 703-351-2086, hcrowder@ntca.org 

San Francisco, Calif. (October 20, 2015)—On Tuesday at the show hosted by INCOMPAS (formerly COMPTEL) in San Francisco, leading trade associations representing broadband network operators across the country released new survey results and announced a broad new campaign along with consumer advocates to promote a more robust video marketplace.

The group includes NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, INCOMPAS, ITTA and Public Knowledge. This coalition, called Networks for Competition and Choice, advocates policies that highlight the link between high-speed broadband availability and affordable access to content.

The new survey finds 95 percent of small broadband operators and new network builders struggle to obtain reasonably-priced programming. In addition, 40 percent report retransmission consent fee price increases of more than 100 percent during the current contract cycle.

A total of 226 companies between the NTCA and INCOMPAS membership participated in the survey. In addition, ITTA surveyed its members and similarly found that they too faced significant price increases for retransmission consent.

In conjunction with the event, member of the Networks for Competition and Choice Coalition released the following statements: 

“It’s far past time for policy makers to complete a hard look at video policy reform and take action.  The current, but outdated, regulatory regime favors broadcasters who can increase their content prices unchecked year after year and extract other costly concessions.  Small video providers and new entrants are constrained in their ability to negotiate for fairer deals and consumers end up writing the checks. Ninety-five percent of respondents of a recent survey of association members reported that the biggest barrier to providing video service is obtaining access to reasonably-priced content.  The inequity in bargaining positions between broadcast content owners and video providers hits rural consumers especially hard as many have no ability to obtain an over the air signal and must pay to receive even the most basic of local service.  The need for action is long overdue, and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association looks forward to working with policy makers as they address outdated rules reflective of a market decades in the past,” said Jill Canfield, NTCA vice president of legal and industry and assistant general counsel. 

“A roadblock in video policy is holding back the deployment of new broadband networks. New networks bring choice, faster speeds and affordability to a marketplace starving for competition. The current video pricing model is a relic of the past, and is holding back a better future for consumers and new broadband builders. It’s time to unplug the bunny ear policies and streamline video reform principles that will guide an open, innovative marketplace that encourages innovation and new broadband deployment,” said Chip Pickering, chief executive officer of INCOMPAS. 

 “New entrant video providers like ITTA member companies must be able to acquire essential content, such as broadcasts by local stations, on reasonable rates, terms and conditions to be able to compete effectively and provide desired video services to consumers. We look forward to working with INCOMPAS and NTCA to achieve the reforms needed to address the rising costs of programming and ensure that consumers receive the benefits of increased competition in the video marketplace,” said Genny Morelli, president of ITTA. 

"Consumers are fed up with cable bills that get higher year after year. The concentrated video marketplace, where a handful of programmers can raise their rates with impunity, and a handful of giant cable companies can raise costs on their smaller and online rivals, has kept the video marketplace from changing to take advantage of new technology and match consumer demand. The pattern of higher bills and bloated bundles is no longer sustainable, and smaller competitors, independent programmers, and viewers are being left behind. Fortunately, the current FCC has a track record of putting competition and consumers first. Right now, it has an opportunity to take steps to start fixing this market for consumers, among other things, by addressing an unbalanced retransmission consent system. It should act quickly to protect consumers in this area,” said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge.

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About Networks for Competition and Choice:
To promote higher broadband speeds and greater broadband choice and adoption, the Federal Communications Commission must reform outdated video policies that stifle competition and choice in the video and broadband markets. The coalition Networks for Competition and Choice aims to demonstrate the need for pro-consumer video policy reform to the Commission.