Cable companies can't block Dish Network, DirecTV: FCC

MUMBAI: In an unprecedented move, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to prevent cable operators from blocking rival platforms access to their regional sports networks. In a 4:1 vote, FCC commissioners concluded that withholding regional sports programming violates the Cable Act and is anti-competitive.

Platforms like Verizon and AT&T, as well as satellite services like DirecTV and Dish have taken issue with cable giants like Comcast and Cablevision, maintaining that they have withheld their own local sports networks from rival services in a bid to gain a competitive advantage. 
While federal law does require platforms to offer access to their own channels to other services at reasonable rates, there is a so-called ‘terrestrial loophole;‘ some platforms have taken the view that local feeds carried over cable lines and not over satellite can be exempt from FCC law.

Said Cablevision on the FCC ruling, "While we find the legal basis for the decision unfounded, we are pleased that the FCC recognized the value of Cablevision‘s local programming strategy and investments. Verizon and AT&T will not receive an FCC bailout that will allow them to capture News 12, MSG Varsity and other programming that we have developed for our customers."  
Verizon hailed the decision. Said Verizon‘s senior VP of federal regulatory affair Kathleen Grillo, "This is a big-time victory for television sports fans. The FCC‘s decision to make must-see regional sports programming, including high-definition feeds, presumptively available to competitors, puts viewers in the driver‘s seat. This ruling means that consumers will no longer have to stick with their incumbent cable provider in order to watch local teams in high definition."

DirecTV also welcomed the FCC decision noting, "The FCC‘s order today eliminating the terrestrial loophole is a big win for consumers and fair competition in the marketplace."

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