At its April 17 public meeting, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemakingthat would eliminate rules requiring cable operators maintain at their local office and on their public inspection files a current listing of the cable TV channels that they deliver to their subscribers. The local office channel lineup rule was originally adopted in 1972.
The Commission's NPRM tentatively concludes that "the requirement to maintain a channel lineup locally is outdated, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the Commission's recent efforts to improve access to information about regulated entities by making this information available online." Indeed, "information about the channel lineups of individual cable operators is now available through other sources" such as cable operator websites, on-screen program guides, and more. Accordingly the Commission believes "few, if any, consumers interested in channel lineup information currently access this information by visiting an operator’s local office as other sources of channel lineup information can be viewed far more quickly and easily." For similar reasons, it's also doubtful that listing channel lineups in cable operator public inspection files is helpful for informing consumers or necessary for consumer protection.
The Commission's proposal to eliminate cable channel lineup listings is a sensible deregulatory measure that deserves to be adopted. The NPRM is the latest of several deregulatory proposals to arise out of the FCC's Media Modernization Initiative. The Commission deserves credit for identifying and eliminating old rules that are often costly but offer no practical benefit to consumers.
FSF President Randolph May and I recommend an approach for reducing legacy cable and DBS regulation in our Perspectives from FSF Scholarspaper "A Proposal for Reforming the FCC's Video Competition Policy."