Stanford, San Bruno File Program Access Complaint Against Comcast

Cite move of Oakland A's and San Jose Sharks games from San Francisco RSN to Sacramento RSN
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A
pair of small cable operators, Stanford University and the City of San Bruno,
Calif., have teamed up to file a program access complaint at the Federal Communications
Commission against Comcast, citing its move of games of Major League Baseball's
Oakland A's and the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks from its San
Francisco regional sports network (CSN Bay Area) to its Sacramento RSN (CSN
California).

In
the complaint filed Dec. 23, the parties, including WaveDivision and Horizon
Cable TV, say Comcast state that engaged in unfair competition and unfair and
deceptive acts, the upshot of which has been price and term discrimination in
the delivery of the must-have sports programming (Comcast also has systems
serving both markets).

The
American Cable Association, which represents small and medium-sized cable
operators, including the two who joined in the complaint, was solidly behind
the petition.

"The
complaint highlights the need for additional safeguards and remedies to prevent
Comcast Corp. from abusing its market power to harm consumers, competitors, and
the public interest in the distribution of 'must have' regional sports networks
under its control," said American Cable Association President Matt Polka
in a statement.

Polka
also used the opportunity to relate it to Comcast's proposed joint venture with
NBC Universal.

"Regulators
must be certain that if Comcast takes control of NBC Universal, it can't engage
in unfair methods of competition and deceptive practices when competitors seek
access to NBC broadcast signals, Comcast-NBCU national cable networks, and
various Internet-content services, such as live streaming of the
Olympics," said Polka.

WaveDivision,
Horizon Cable TV, Stanford and San Bruno argue that the move of the teams by
Comcast "artificialy linked" the San Francisco and Sacramento DMAs,
which required the operators to buy both RSNs to maintain the previous access
to the teams.

The
parties aver that Comcast raised the price of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area,
without replacing it with "reasonably equivalent" marquee sports
programming, and charged more for CSN California to reflect the addition of the
games. The petitioners claim this was equivalent to a dramatic price increase
to the operators and customers.

They
also took issue with the way Comcast structured the high-definition and
standard definition feeds of the channels, including moving some content to the
enhanced signals that cost the operators more to carry.

The
complaint asks the FCC to sanction Comcast, grant the petitioners relief, and
award damages, while noting that arbitration would be an insufficient remedy.
That relief, according to the complaint, should include:

"1. Restoration of the major league team content of the RSNs as it was
prior to the May 10, 2009 realignment;
2. Refund of all surcharge fees paid by Petitioners through the date of the
Commission's order and elimination;
3.
Require alignment of standard-definition and high-definition content on each
SanFrancisco RSN and Sacramento RSN;
4. Require greater availability (geographically) of the HD terrestrial feed or
require distribution via satellite;
5. Prohibit future movement of major league sports teams from an in-market
(DMA) RSN to an out-of-market RSN or any combinations of RSNs or RSN carriage
obligations that would have a similar effect; and
6. Award to Petitioners all costs, fees and expenses incurred in connection
with the investigation and prosecution of this complaint."

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