MCTV's Gessner backs new bill freeing small operators from FCC red tape

Washington DC National Capitol Building

MCTV President and ACA Chairman Robert Gessner told the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee yesterday that a new Republican-sponsored bill would have saved his Ohio company from having to uselessly petition the FCC for a waiver on analog systems tests after a digital conversion in 2010.

“It was not until last September—over seven years after we filed our waiver request—that the FCC finally addressed our concerns,” he said.

Gessner was voicing support for the Small Entity Regulatory Relief Opportunity (SERRO) Act of 2017, a bill introduced last September by reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., seeking to cut red tape for small businesses overseen by the FCC.

“If SERRO had been in place in 2010, my company would not have been subjected to seven years of regulatory uncertainty waiting for the FCC to act on our waiver petition,” Gessner said during the legislative session. “In fact, we might not have needed to go to the expense of filing for a waiver in the first place.” (The American Cable Association put out a press release quoting its chairman’s testimony.)

RELATED: MCTV's Gessner elected ACA chairman

Gessner oversees a family-owned cable company serving 50,000 customers in five Ohio counties. Gessner said that MCTV and the American Cable Association aren’t seeking to duck consumer protections.

“I want to stress that SERRO is focused only on the procedures by which small entities can request regulatory relief,” he told the subcommittee. “That’s the ‘O’ in SERRO—Opportunity. Nothing in the bill would change the substantive legal standard for obtaining relief.”

Certainly, as cable’s large-operator-focused NCTA has made regulatory hay in recent months with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the legislative branch, the ACA is making its own progress. 

SERRO directs the FCC to streamline procedures and reduce administrative requirements for small telecom operators to request waivers. It also calls upon the FCC to review the necessity and impact of red tape in regard to smaller companies, and it establishes an automatic deferral period of at least one year in the application of most new regulations on small entities. 

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