When the I hit the video link on the FCC’s website yesterday at 11:00 am, I was faced with a familiar site: a bunch of suits milling around and not doing much of anything. Instead of leaving the scene on for hours as I did back in September, I shut off the link and tried again about an hour later. This time, no connection at all.
It turns out that the FCC’s scheduled meeting to discuss possible new cable regulations was delayed until after 9:00 pm. Chairman Kevin Martin has been pushing hard to impose new regulatory restrictions on the industry based on his assessment that cable has reached a threshold where its services are available to 70% of the population, and at least 70% of those folks count themselves as subscribers. Unfortunately for Martin, his math has been widely discredited (examples here and here), and he ran up against a brick wall yesterday when he tried to push his point.
Whether or not you believe the FCC should regulate the cable industry more closely, Martin’s timing and the evidence he presented for his argument were ludicrous. Just ask Wall Street, which punished cablecos in the last round of quarterly earnings for continued loss of basic cable subscribers. Cable is actually facing competition now from the likes of Verizon and AT&T, not to mention satellite providers. Martin probably would have had a better shot a year or two ago, faulty math or no, but growing telco success in the TV market completely undermines his position.
Multichannel News reports in more detail on yesterday’s delayed events.
Two more tangential points:
- The New York Times published an editorial yesterday (login required) supporting Martin’s position with only a cursory reference to the fact that many industry experts believe Martin’s numbers to be wrong. I’m generally a fan of the Times editorial page, but this piece had me rolling my eyes at its lack of contextual information. [UPDATE: The NY Times has a new article up on yesterday’s FCC meeting. Still no mention of how well-disputed Martin’s 70/70 numbers are.]
- TV services are one thing, high-speed Internet is another. AT&T actually has the most Internet subscribers of any provider, including Comcast. Check out Leightman’s latest numbers. They certainly surprised me. (Thanks, Glenn)