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Verizon Calls FCC Ruling Victory for Sports Fans
WASHINGTON – January 20, 2010 - The Federal Communications Commission ruled on Wednesday (Jan. 20) that incumbent cable television providers that control unique, regional sports programming can no longer unilaterally refuse to provide access to that programming, including high-definition feeds, to competing providers.
In a 4-1 decision, FCC commissioners concluded that withholding regional sports programming presumptively violates section 628 of the Cable Act and is anti-competitive. The order, approved at Wednesday's open meeting, includes "standstill" language barring cable companies from cutting off access to programming during program renewal negotiations.
Verizon, which competes with Cablevision in the television market with its FiOS TV, filed a program access complaint against Cablevision in July because the cable incumbent continually denied Verizon access to high-definition versions of regional sports programming Cablevision controls in New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
The following statement should be attributed to Kathleen Grillo, Verizon senior vice president of Federal Regulatory Affairs:
"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."
Cablevision released the following statement :
"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. We are also pleased that despite the phone companies' overwhelming lobbying effort, the FCC has ensured a complaint process. If the phone companies complain that they are unable to compete, we are confident that we can prove that it is for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with HD sports programming. Verizon and AT&T do not need a regulatory bailout in order to compete."
FCC finally got it right. It's nice to know that MSG HD will be added to the FIOS HD lineup.
We have FIOS 1, and honestly, never heard of MSG Varsity. They can keep both. The lost their war. It is only fair that everyone has equal access, to sports programming.