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New draft cable bill resurfaces in committee.

The House Telecommunications Subcommittee released a draft of its "new and improved" committee cable bill on Thursday.

The former committee bill, H.R. 1303, was shelved amid calls by NLC, and other local government groups, that the legislation was just "not strong enough" to provide regulatory relief to our nation's cities and towns dealing with skyrocketing rates and poor service.

The draft, entitled the "Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992," addresses many of the concerns local elected officials have expressed regarding anti-competitive practices by virtual cable monopolies in their communities. Mark-up on the revised legislation is slated to occur this week.

The Markey bill (not yet introduced at this writing) contains a broader definition of basic cable service than the Senate version (S.12) which was passed January 31st. Under the new House draft, the basic service tier would consist of broadcast signals, PEG channels and any additional video programming signals or services a cable operator may want to include at this level.

Under the new draft, a cable operator may not require a consumer to subscribe to any other than the basic service tier in order to receive premium channels. According to Bill Cook at Arnold & Porter, this rate regulation framework may mean that a cable operator would place more programming on the basic tier as they could not charge a fee for any other level. HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime, for example, would probably be individually purchased in addition to a subscription to the basic service tier.

The the two-part effective competition standard in the Markey bill is virtually identical to the standard contained in S.12:

[Section] 30 percent or less of the cable community is actually served by the cable system (the assumption being that a majority of potential subscribers have an alternative/competitive form of entertainment or interest) or;

[Section] the cable community is served by at least two unaffiliated multi-channel video programming service providers which offer comparable programming to at least 50 percent of the cable community.

The House Telecommunications Subcommittee has scheduled mark-up this week on the legislation. For more information call Anna Ferrera in the Center for Policy and Federal Relations at (202) 626-3020.
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Title Annotation:cable television
Author:Ferrera, Anna Pulido
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 30, 1992
Words:364
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