Comcast and Cablevision lose appeal over channel sharing rules

by Paul William Tenny

Coax cableComcast and a few other cable giants sued the FCC over a rule that prevents them from keeping regional sports channels (and other channels) that they own away from their competitors. They lost at the appellate level on Friday, and that's obviously good news for you if you happen to have something other than cable, or are even on a cable provider other than Comcast and Cablevision.

Those two companies complained that the rules were unfairly applied to them, but not DirecTV, a direct competitor. Comcast is right, the rule isn't being fairly applied to everyone. But that doesn't mean the rule should go away or that Comcast should get what it wants.

Just the opposite is true in fact, what should happen is that the rule should also be applied to DirecTV and everyone else. No service provider should be allowed to own a channel and keep it on their service exclusively. It may sound like unfair government interference in private business practices, but that's kind of the purpose of government -- to interfere on our behalf when companies aren't playing fair, hurting consumers and competition in the process.

This case will no doubt be appealed again to the same court for what's called an en banc hearing, but there's no requirement that the appeals court grant such an appeal. And it'll go to the Supreme Court, regardless, but there's no guarantee that they'll hear it either.

So whether or not you agree with the appropriateness of the ruling and the intent of the rule, this is definitely a win for consumers and a loss for Big Cable that wants to force you to subscribe to their service in order to get the channels that they themselves own. Even if they don't offer their service in your area at all.

in Business, Legal, Television


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