Comcast goes to court to challenge 30% national reach cap

On April 24, Comcast goes into the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to offer its arguments why a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 30 percent cap on national cable reach should be repealed.

Comcast filed suit in March 2008, contesting a FCC decision as arbitrary and capricious, as well as an abuse of the agency's discretion. A Comcast executive said that the FCC's record had no support for an ownership cap at 30 percent and that it seemed the agency had favored phone company mergers, such as the AT&T/BellSouth merger; the FCC has also been amenable to changing the video franchise rules in favor of telcos building out in more profitable regions.

The FCC has argued that the 30 percent limit was designed to ensure that no single cable operator or group of operators could unfairly impede the flow of programming to customers.  Cable operators in support of Comcast's challenge say that the FCC failed to conduct a proper market analysis before deciding upon reimposing the cap on the percentage of cable subscribers operators may reach nationally.

Comcast is the closest cable operator to the cap, with about 27 percent of subscribers.  Cable companies and their representative association argue that the FCC decision barely took into account the growth of competition in alternative video delivery systems, such as satellite, the Internet and phone companies. Without a market power determination weighing competition, the FCC can't concretely show the harm by allowing a cable company to grow beyond the 30 percent limit.

For more:
- Multichannel News Article.

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