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Small cablers ask FCC for rate relief

Small cable TV operators plan to seek emergency relief from the Federal Communications Commission next week, when they’ll ask the agency to allow rate hikes despite an industry price freeze that’s in effect until Feb. 15.

David Kinley, head of the Small Cable Business Assn., told a panel of FCC staffers Thursday at the Western Cable Show that approval of the petition is critical to the survival of small cablers.

Kinley was just one of a number of small cable operators who criticized repeated FCC delays in implementing the 1992 Cable Act. The bill allows large cable operators to go “virtually unscathed, but it is killing the small operators,” Kinley claimed.

FCC staffers Maureen O’Connell and James Coltharp expressed concern for the plight of small operators, many of whom said they are unable to get bank loans or make strategic plans.

Small cablers were in no mood for sympathy from FCC aides.

“We can’t eat sympathy,” said Dean Peterson, head of Southwest Missouri Cable TV Inc. “We can’t pay bills with sympathy.”

For months, the FCC has grappled with defining what constitutes a small cable system. The definition is critical, since those companies meeting the definition will be exempted from reregulation.

The FCC had been planning to announce its small system definition Dec. 13 meeting, but O’Connell hinted the decision might be postponed until January.

The small cablers org Kinley said his group’s petition will ask the FCC to allow small cablers to raiserates up to the benchmark price guidelines set forth under rate regulation rules.

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