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Cable rate rules set for Sept. 1

The Federal Communications Commission caved in to pressure from Congress Tuesday and moved from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1 the date at which new cable TV rate regulation rules will take effect.

FCC plans to enforce a rollback in cable rates by as much as 15% nationwide.

The FCC action was prompted in part by an offer from the U.S. Treasury Dept. to transfer 30 accountants, 10 clerks and four secretaries to the FCC to help the understaffed agency carry out its cable reregulation rules.

Congress and the FCC have been in a tug-of-war in recent weeks over the date at which new cable rate reg rules will become effective. Originally, the FCC had set the start-up date for mid-June. However, interim FCC chairman James Quello later postponed that date to Oct. 1, claiming the agency lacked the manpower and financial resources to implement the measure.

The delay infuriated the Consumer Federation of America, which claimed the postponement would result in a $ 300 million giveaway to cable companies.

The postponement also angered Senate communications subcommittee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and House telecommunications subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Both Inouye and Markey urged Quello to move up the effective date to Sept. 1.

Quello relented Tuesday, saying in a statement that the move was “influenced in part by the possibility that the congressional advocates of the Sept. 1 dates could express displeasure by cutting the FCC’s future funding to administer the Cable Act.”

Quello conceded that it would have been difficult insisting on the Oct. 1 date after the Treasury Department pledged to provide 44 employees to assist the FCC carry out the cable rules.

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