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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 09, 2012

Boston Authorized to Regulate Comcast Rates: FCC

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

The Federal Communication Commission has granted the city of Boston the right to regulate the rates that Comcast (News - Alert) charges its residents for basic cable service, the federal body acknowledged today in a memorandum.

The FCC (News - Alert) acted on a petition filed by the city last May to reverse a 2001 decision that banned Boston officials from regulating local cable service agreements offered by Comcast. At the time, the FCC ruled that Massachusetts was "subject to effective competition," and revoked the city's ability to regulate basic cable service rates.

The FCC, however, admitted today the market has changed, giving Comcast a near monopoly in the cable space. RCN (News - Alert), Comcast's chief competition in the Boston area, currently provides coverage to just 32 percent of local households. The FCC initially anticipated that RCN would roll out cable service to the entire city of Boston, but that was before the company ran out of capital and halted its expansion plans.

"At present, RCN has neither an obligation to expand the geographic scope of its system nor any prospect of doing so," the FCC noted.

Comcast had argued that the company is subject to competition from other providers – namely Dish Network and DirectTV – but the FCC ruled that its procedures don't allow cable operators to prove alternate grounds for decertification.

Instead, the rules instruct the FCC "to focus on whether ‘the reasons for the earlier…revocation no longer pertain.’ Our rules do not contemplate, in re-certification proceedings, consideration of new evidence for decertification…that is raised for the first time in the middle of the pleading cycle," the federal body said in the memorandum.

Pending an appeal from Comcast, Boston will be recertified to regulate Comcast's basic cable service in 30 days. While the city has yet to show its hand, Boston leaders will more than likely look to implement a price control agreement with Comcast in the coming months. Fierce Cable reports Comcast has increased its basic cable rates in Boston by more than 80 percent since 2008.

Edited by Braden Becker

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