By Brendan Sasso - 09/02/11 04:16 PM EDT
Commisso said Genachowski has not lived up to his goal to “strive to be smart” about how the FCC’s actions affect consumers.
“Your remarks when you were first appointed as Chairman encouraged us to believe that, under your leadership, the Commission would finally address the problem,” Commisso wrote. “I regret to say that it is now almost three years later and nothing has been done.”
One of Commisso’s chief complaints is that cable providers have to pay fees to local television broadcasters to retransmit their channels. He called the fees “exorbitant.”
“The Commission’s position that it does not have the authority to intervene — even though a different interpretation of the law would clearly be sustainable — is forcing American consumers to pay billions of dollars for ‘free’ over-the-air television without receiving anything more in return,” he wrote.
Broadcasters pushed back against Mediacom’s claims.
“Mediacom’s sudden conversion to consumer advocate strains the bounds of credibility,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters. “The truth is that retransmission-consent fees account for only two-tenths of 1 percent of cable revenues today, and according to a recent study, analysts predict they will never rise above 1 percent.”
In his letter, Commisso suggested actions the FCC could take to lower programming costs, including mandating the unbundling of station and program services. He said consumers should be able to choose which channels to pay for from an “a la carte” system.