Polka: Viacom's 'Retaliatory' Web Move Raises Openness Issues

Criticizes blocking move's affect on ACA's smaller operator members
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American Cable Association president Matt Polka says Viacom's denial of access to its Web sites by broadband Internet subs of Cable One and others is a violation of Internet openness that should raise warning flags in Washington.

Cable One dropped 15 cable nets April 1, and Viacom then decided that its programming would "no longer be available to Cable One customers in any form."

In a statement May 6, Polka said that broadband Internet customers of both Cable One and Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico are being denied access to Viacom Web sites, including customers who have cut the cord on traditional video.

Viacom essentially echoed the earlier sentiment. "“Cable ONE and Liberty Cablevision have chosen to no longer carry Viacom programming and, as a result, it is no longer available to their customers in any form.”

“Viacom’s actions are a flagrant attack on Internet openness and a textbook replay of the vengeful action CBS took against Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks broadband customers during their well-documented retransmission consent dispute last August," said Polka. “All who care about ensuring access to content on the Internet should be outraged that Viacom is selectively blocking access to its public websites by broadband Internet subscribers served by smaller cable companies."

Polka pointed to an op ed by FCC Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly Tuesday, who raised the issue of CBS blocking, though in the context of warning edge providers that they could fall under the FCC's proposed new network neutrality rules, too, which O'Rielly does not support. "[C]onsider the contractual fight over programming between CBS and Time Warner Cable last year," O'Rielly wrote. "During its retransmission dispute, CBS pulled its signal off of certain cable TV systems — and also blocked all Time Warner broadband customers from accessing CBS’ Web-based content, even outside the territory of dispute. This is precisely the kind of content-blocking broadband providers are so often accused of but aren’t actually doing." O'Reilly doesn't support ACA's position on network neutrality regs.

In 2012, Viacom blocked DirecTV subs access to online content in the midst of a nine-day carriage standoff.

A Viacom spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

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