Cable operator RCN has joined the chorus calling on the FCC to close the so-called terrestrial loophole.
Because of the way the program access rules are written, cable programmmers are only required to make their satellite-delivered programming available to other multichannel video providers, while landline-delivered services, such as many regional sports networks, are exempt from the access requirements.
In February, a group of 19 house members in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, called for bringing terrestrial delivered nets into the fold, specifically making that an FCC condition on approval of the Comcast/Time Warner deal to divvy up bankrupt cable operator Adelphia.
The FCC has been considering the deal for over six months, with no decision yet, likely due to a combination of the lack of a full complement of FCC commissioners and the timing of Adelphia's emergence from bankruptcy.
That call for closing the loophole was joined earlier this month by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and committee member Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who also sent a letter to Martin suggesting the FCC explore putting on such conditions, sighting concerns about Comcast withholding sports network programming from DBS competitors in Philadelphia and Time Warner in Charlotte, N.C.
Comcast's very public battle with Orioles owner Peter Angelos over rights to the Orioles and Washington Nationals, the subject of a House hearing two weeks ago, has also put the Hill spotlight on Comcast and sports programming.
RCN, in a letter last week to Martin, asked the FCC to condition the Adelphia deal on agreements by Comcast and Time Warner to make its landline-delivered nets available to competitors, again citing the sports network issue. In addition, RCN wants the two companies to disclose programming contracts at government request, and make program access disputes subject to arbitration, similar to a condition the FCC placed on the merger of News Corp. and Hughes' DirecTV, according to RCN.