TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics have filed joint comments in response to questions from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010, as well as reform of video programming regulations from 1984 and 1992 Cable Acts. The comments build on testimony delivered last June to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee by ICLE Executive Director and TechFreedom Senior Fellow Geoffrey Manne.
“STELA (and its predecessors) as well as the Cable Act were written to promote competition and to protect consumers in nascent markets. But since their enactment the market has fundamentally changed, becoming quite competitive. Rather than continuing to try to tweak the laws of a bygone era, Congress should abandon these disparately applied, technology-specific regulations and embrace the default tool for dealing with market power across the economy: antitrust law,” says the groups’ comments, written by Manne, TechFreedom’s Berin Szoka, and ICLE’s Ben Sperry.
STELA expires at the end of the year, prompting a larger discussion of how the FCC regulates the market for video programming. TechFreedom and ICLE’s comments argue that Congress should repeal outdated rules and allow bedrock property rules enshrined in copyright law to be the basis for free market negotiations. Antitrust law can police potential abuses of market power that might harm consumers.
In the increasingly competitive marketplace for video programming, the labyrinthian rules of STELA and the Cable Act make little sense. Rather than extending these rules to Internet-based video platforms and thus reducing incentives to invest and experiment with new business models, Congress should simply repeal them.
“Particularly to the extent that STELA and the Cable Act impose regulations on satellite providers that differ from those governing cable providers – again, a relic of a very different competitive climate – the disparity is no longer defensible. But rather than impose cable’s rules on satellite providers, Congress should simply remove both STELA and the Cable Act’s outdated limitations,” the comments say.
Manne, Szoka, and Sperry are available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.