Cablers Can Protect Sensitive Info in FCC Inquiry

The cable industry has been jumping up and down about a fresh FCC investigation of whether the cablers are using confusion about the DTV transition to raise prices or reduce channels in their cheapest packages.

The industry has called the inquiry a fishing expedition and worse, and says the FCC has no authority to regulate cable rates.

The commission may have sidestepped at least one of the industry’s concerns Thursday, granting protective orders to companied so that sensitive information—namely the per-subscriber fees paid by the cablers to programmers.

“The [FCC Media] Bureau is aware that the information requested by this inquiry may contain highly sensitive business data and has consistently recognized that disclosure of information related to programming contracts in some instances can result in substantial competitive harm to the information provider,” the Media Bureau wrote in a series of orders.

The orders allow the cablers to stamp the info “highly confidential,” the FCC will restrict access to it, the orders said.

The FCC sent Notices of Inquiry to several top cable companies Oct. 30, asking them to describe what channels have been moved to pricier tiers and how much notice they gave subscribers, among other data. The letter gave the companies 14 days—until Thursday—to respond.

Thirteen companies are affected by the inquiry, including Comcast, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, Verizon, RCN and Time Warner.