Is the FCC gearing up for multi-front conflict?

Comcast stung--but by no means mortally wounded--the FCC when it won a net neutrality argument in federal court. Rather than back off, it appears that the cable industry should be prepared for a long, hard fought battle with FCC starting with gateway devices that would replace the flagging CableCARD and possibly break up the set-top duopoly of Motorola and Cisco.

The biggest threat to cable is that the Commission might just decide to "drop the big one" and classify broadband providers as telecommunications providers and then regulate them. This is the final hope of a new breed of Internet user like Zach Pentel, a master's candidate in communication, culture and technology at Georgetown University, who wrote that "perpetual failure to regulate broadband isn't a foregone conclusion."

Of course cable isn't the only group clashing with the FCC. The FCC's plan to take still more spectrum from the broadcasters is an example of "unnecessary government intervention" said NAB President Gordon Smith--who also took issue with any move the Commission might make to weaken broadcast retransmission consent negotiations. "Our programming provides real value to our pay TV partners and we deserve fair compensation for providing cable and satellite viewers with programs like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, American Idol and Lost," Smith said. American Idol and Lost? Really?

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