Cable rep rips FCC price report

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WASHINGTON -- The head of the nation's cable lobby attacked an FCC report being released today as an "anachronism" that pretends the telecommunications revolution never happened.

Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Assn., said measuring cable prices simply by looking at the cost to consumers of analog video "is a fundamental misunderstanding of what our business is doing. It's like we've been put in a time warp."

It's the first time the FCC has released its video price report in two years. The report the commission is expected to release probably will show that cable prices have increased faster than the pace of inflation through 2005.

McSlarrow contends that the report fails to take in cable's entire service, from broadband Internet access to telephone service.

"That's an anachronism," he said. "The rollout of broadband wouldn't have happened with cable."

FCC chairman Kevin Martin has been critical of the cable industry. He has pushed a policy that would allow customers to pick which channels they want to see without having to pay for the channels they don't want. The cable industry contends that doing that would raise cable rates and rein in their telephone and broadband plans.

McSlarrow said he wasn't dismissing the importance of video to the industry.

"It's not that video isn't important; it's our core business," he said. "The cable industry is a lot more than just video."

The commission also has scheduled a vote on new regulations that would make it easier for telephone companies to get into the video business. While McSlarrow said the industry isn't opposed to easing the regulatory burden, he believes the FCC went too far and that the decision would damage the industry.

"It's a proposal that has to be pared dramatically back," McSlarrow said. "We're not too keen on any proposal that treats us and telcos differently."
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