FCC order frees up programming for telcos, satellite providers

Telcos and satellite video providers got a big break yesterday when the FCC voted to shrink the so-called terrestrial loophole that allowed cable companies to block access to some video programming to competitors.

While the FCC's Cable Act of 1992 prevents cable operators from denying competitors access to video content that comes over a satellite feed, cable operators could keep some programming out of the hands of competitive video providers if it's being delivered over a terrestrial fiber connection.

Competitive video providers (both telcos and satellite operators) maintain that this so-called loophole has prevented them from being able to penetrate potentially lucrative markets. AT&T, for instance, filed a complaint with the FCC that said Cox prevented it from carrying San Diego Padres baseball games on its network.

Although FCC voted 4-1 in favor of the proposed order, any service provider that has a claim against a cable company will have to still go through the arduous process of filing a complaint before the FCC can order the cable operator to offer competitors access to sports programming.

Banning content exclusivity is not just an American phenomenon, however. A competition council last week determined that France Telecom's Orange should not be allowed to carve out exclusive deals for sports programming.

Not everyone is on board with the FCC's ruling. Taking an alternative view of the FCC order was Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, who believed the agency may have overstepped its boundaries. "The FCC is not Congress; we cannot rewrite statutes," he said. McDowell added the FCC will be facing legal challenges from cable operators.  

For more:
- Cable Digital News has this article
- Reuters has this article

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