California Congressmen Complain To FCC About Padres Coverage

Reps say Cox's decision not to sell games to competitive video providers should be reviewed

A pair of California congressmen have written FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying Cox's decision not to sell San Diego Padres games to competitive video providers is "untenable" and should be "reviewed."

Reps. Bob Filner (D) and Duncan Hunter (R), say that Cox's conduct has had a "major negative impact" on competition for video programming in San Diego, saying that fans of the team have no choice but to subscribe to Cox if they want to watch their team.

The FCC has already decided that Cox had not violated its program access rules, last month summarily dismissing a complaint by AT&T.

AT&T has asked it to reconsider in light of a court decision that overturned exclusive contracts between multichannel video providers and multiple dwelling units like apartments and condos.

The FCC had dismissed the AT&T complaint because Cox delivers the Padres games via a terrestrial network. The FCC has previously concluded that such networks are exempt from the program access requirements on satellite-delivered networks--the so-called terrestrial loophole, though the FCC is currently contemplating whether to make any changes to those access rules.

In response to AT&T's challenge of that dismissal, Cox had said it "has been operating completely within its rights under the law to differentiate our services through the exclusive programming we deliver via Channel 4 San Diego which we own and operate. AT&T is looking for shortcuts instead of building its own competitive service with compelling local content in San Diego."

"The FCC's Media Bureau decided in favor of Cox in this matter," said Cox Director of Media Relations David Grabert. "The law is clear. We are confident that the full Commission will reach the same conclusion as the Media Bureau."

The Congressmen are correct that only Cox subscribers can get the Padres games, but they don't have to be Cox video subscribers anymore. That is because as of earlier this month, Cox began streaming Padres games to Cox Broadband subs, another sign of the growing importance of the online video model.

According to Grabert, subscription to Cox's cable service is not a requirement. "Any Cox high-speed Internet subscriber may choose to subscribe to the MLB streaming package," he says.