McSlarrow Readies for Telecom Reform, Touts De-Reg

Addressing the cable industry's concerns over competition from telco video service, NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow said this week that lawmakers should create a federal franchise plan for new video services and remove rate restrictions on cable pricing.

While Congress is reviewing the 1996 Telecom Act, McSlarrow outlined what he viewed as positive results of the Act--fostering competition for example--and suggested moving away from state-based rules to a federal framework, and in doing so, listed three main principles to achieve this; promoting minimal economic regulation, maintaining social responsibilities, like 911, and fostering a level playing field.

"If newcomers are subject to less restrictive requirements, or granted longer service terms, such lighter regulation ought to apply to existing franchisees as well," he told attendees at the Washington Metro Cable Club.

Local regulations, implemented by a local franchise agreement could take care of the protection of health and safety--via 911 services--while the federal framework could handle transfers and renewals in a competitive video environment, according to McSlarrow's plan.

"Piecemeal policymaking is the antithesis of the stable regulatory framework that best fosters the massive investment necessary for a facilities-based video competition," McSlarrow said.

Also, McSlarrow believes the companies joining the IP and video market should play by the same rules as cable by providing services to all neighborhoods, not just the wealthy ones.

A white paper, "Working Toward a Deregulated Video Marketplace' was released by NCTA on the same day, explaining how a national franchise plan could be implemented.