Nearly 150 small cable TV operators are blanketing D.C. this week in hopes of obtaining relief from a morass of new Federal Communications Commission regulations stemming from passage of the 1992 Cable Act.

Industry executives are fanning out over Capitol Hill and the FCC in hopes of persuading Washington to tread lightly on the mom and pops of the cable world.

Key lawmakers

On Monday, meetings were scheduled with key lawmakers — including Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) — along with interim FCC chairman James Quello and FCC member Andrew Barrett.

One proposal being pushed at the FCC by small operators is either an exemption from the agency’s complex new rate regulation rules, or a simplified version of the regs.

“We’d like something like a 1040EZ form for cable regulation,” said Michael Pohl, senior vice president of Douglas Communications Corp., a small operator based in Ridgewood, N.J.

Quello said the FCC “is going to do everything we can to help” small operators.

FCC backtracked

It was Quello who first proposed exempting cable systems with 1,000 or fewer subscribers. However, the FCC has since backtracked on that idea, in part because cable behemoths such as Tele-Communications Inc. own systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers.

FCC officials acknowledge that exempting TCI from rate regulation would never pass congressional muster.

Quello said Monday he would still like to exempt the truly small and independent operators from the FCC rules.

In defining a “small” system, the FCC chair said the agency is now exploring factoring in the gross revenue of the cable operator and the “density” of the system (i.e., number of homes passed per mile).

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