CenturyLink submitted comments today commending the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for reviewing the current laws governing the market for video content distribution as part of the committee’s efforts to update and modernize our nation’s telecommunications laws.
Over the past five years, CenturyLink has begun offering video competition and programming options through the launch of its Prism™ TV service to approximately 2 million homes in a dozen markets. The company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in deploying high-speed broadband services to support its IPTV digital video product.
In the markets where it is available, Prism™ TV provides significant competition and consumer choice, generally offering the only facilities-based alternative to incumbent cable operators for the bundles of video, broadband, and voice that consumers increasingly demand.
However, consumers are feeling the impact of rising content costs through increased prices and surcharges on their cable bills. The rapid rise in the cost of content – in particular, the steadily rising fees that CenturyLink must pay for retransmission of local broadcasting signals – threatens CenturyLink’s ability to provide competitive video services.
We urge Congress to reform the 1992 Cable Act to permit new video market entrants to compete on a more equitable basis and to require greater transparency in the prices, terms and conditions of content agreements. Broadcasters currently have little incentive to offer fair and reasonable terms to new entrants, which effectively deprives consumers of the benefits of competition.
CenturyLink believes the Cable Act should be amended to give providers the right to carry national programming from an adjacent or alternate market during a breakdown in retransmission consent negotiations, thus preserving competition and protecting consumers from programming blackouts. Consumers benefit from more choices and more competition, not less.