FCC Eases Noncom Board Reporting Rules

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Sen. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeySenate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs Dems ask FCC to postpone vote on business data reforms Senate Dem: Trump team moving United States to militaristic solution in North Korea MORE (D-Mass.) blasted the Federal Communications Commission Thursday for a new order easing regulations on special data access lines that critics say will reduce competition and increase prices.

BDS, estimated to be worth about $45 billion, refers to the data lines that networks and businesses - ranging from banks to retail stores - purchase from major carriers like AT&T Inc.to traffic massive amounts of data.

Former Chairman Tom Wheeler took up the issue in an item circulated last summer and it was eliminated last fall.

The FCC approved a change to the rules that will now allow noncommercial educational broadcasters to avoid having to submit personal information about all board members or directors, a burden added to NCEs in a JANUARY 2016 revision of the ownership reporting rules.

"Efforts like the one started today undermine fundamental common-sense consumer protections", Gasparini said.

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Reinstatement allows ownership of more TV stations under the 39 percent national audience cap, which current Chairman Ajit Pai said is on the table after a litany of pop-culture references to that which is "inextricably linked" such as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. But a year ago, the FCC under Democratic President Barack Obama said those rules were outdated after the 2009 conversion to digital broadcasting, which eliminated the differences in station signal strength.

That's likely to have its impact on big station owners, including Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ:SBGI), which is reportedly considering a bid for Tribune Media (TRCO -0.5%) in the high 30s per share.

The vote was 2 to 1, with commissioner Mignon Clyburn offering a scathing review of the policy.

Pai, however, argued that the elimination of the discount needed to go hand-in-hand with an examination of the media ownership cap.

A Sinclair/Tribune deal "would be bad news for consumers" because it would reduce independent voices in some markets and could lead to higher pay-TV bills because Sinclair charges more than Tribune for cable companies to carry their stations, Pelosi and Pallone wrote. Dominant telecommunications providers have long abused their incredible market power, and American businesses and consumers have suffered the consequences in the form of reduced economic growth and job creation, lower business investment in new operations and products, and higher prices passed on to consumers for goods and services.

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Pai said FCC price controls were preventing existing providers from expanding their networks and discouraging new entrants, such as cable companies.

The FCC added 50 percent of the buildings in a county are within a half-mile of a location served by a competitive provider.

They and others asked the FCC to delay Thursday's vote in favor of gathering more data on the market. That was eliminated with the transition to digital television.

"Price regulation - that is, the government setting the rates, terms and conditions for special access services - is seductive", he said. The regulations require incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to lease portions of their networks to smaller competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) like Sprint and Level 3 at regulated rates to boost competition.

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