Last month we noted how amusing it was that supposedly "anti-regulation" FCC chair Kevin Martin suddenly turned "pro-regulation"
when it came to cable companies -- the arch enemies of Martin's buddies
in the telcos. For years, Martin has hoped that he could force cable companies to offer a la carte programming
, which was really a move to help push "family friendly" programming. Of course, the problem was that the FCC doesn't have regulatory control over cable systems. It was designed to regulate the public airwaves, not the private cable lines. However, there was a loophole found in the 1934 Communications Act, that would give the FCC the right to regulate cable if two conditions were met: it was available to 70% of the population, and 70% of those who had it available subscribed. Martin has used that loophole to push for regulations -- but there's plenty of disagreement as to whether or not the numbers really pass the 70/70 rule. For example, the FCC's own numbers pin the number at only 54%. Martin chose someone else's numbers to get his necessary 70%. Either way, though, he still hasn't given a good reason
the FCC should regulate cable.
While the debate on this issue continues, some folks in Congress are looking to make the whole thing meaningless anyway, by taking away Martin's loophole. They want to amend the Communications Act to remove the 70/70 provision
. This seems reasonable, as it appears that Martin is only looking to regulate for political reasons. What's not clear from the article is whether or not the support is there to pass this change to the Act. Tragically, it may depend on who politicians are more in bed with: the telcos or the cable cos.