Federal Communications Commission chair Kevin Martin has a habit of detailing how the FCC will vote ahead of its actual meetings. But his plan to hit big cable with new regulations seems to have his fellow Republican Commissioners offside. Martin claimed cable now had a market share in excess of the 70 percent needed to invoke regulations--a figure hotly disputed by the cable lobby, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. The NCTA let lose at Martin accusing him of trying to "hurt the cable industry" and declaring the FCC "broken."
What exactly Martin wants to do was unclear as by week's end he seemed to be walking away from any plan to break up bundled content offerings and force the cable companies to allow customers to pick whatever programming they wanted.
Meanwhile over at the FCC, commissioners Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell expressed reservations about the data Martin was using. They released a letter asking the Warren Communications News--which compiles the data for the FCC-- to send them "all information" regarding the market data, including any "caveats" or "footnotes" to the statistics.
Tate and McDowell wrote: "As you are aware, over the past three years, our Report has found cable subscribership hovers around 60 percent. With the increase in competition from satellite and phone companies, most large cable operators report a decline in subscribership. Thus, it was surprising to learn that Warren Communications reported a 71.4 percent subscribership rate this year, especially considering the two other major independent research outlets found rates at 61.1 percent (Nielsen) and 58.1 percent (Kagan)."
So much for the consensus Martin was trying to create; it also leaves his cross media deregulation plans vulnerable as opponents seek to exploit Martin's apparent lack of support.