Verizon Files Amended Access Complaint on MSG Nets

Asks FCC to force Cablevision and MSG to sell HD feeds of sports networks
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Verizon has asked the FCC to force Cablevision and Madison Square Garden to sell HD feeds of MSG Net and MSG Plus to Verizon for its FiOS MVPD service in the New York area.

"Consumers continue to be denied the full benefits of meaningful competitive choice because Verizon still cannot offer its customers access to the high-definition feeds of the must-have regional sports programming that defendants own and control," Verizon said in its filing of an ammended complaint at the commission. "Verizon requests that the commission act promptly to grant our complaint."

The FCC essentially invited anyone with an outstanding complaint over access to terrestrial nets to re-file it under the new rules.

Verizon filed an access complaint at the FCC in July 2009 over MSG's HD feeds, and recently followed that up with another request for MSG HD programming.

"After the new rules went into effect, Verizon again requested access to the HD feeds consistent with the FCC's order, but MSG has again declined and still refused to offer access on any terms," spokesman David Fish said Friday. "We are considering our options."

Its option turned out to be amending its complaint Monday with the FCC to try to force MSG's hand.

The new rules in question was a reference to the final approval last week of new FCC rules that remove the exemption of terrestrially delivered networks like MSG from program access requirements. The rules also made clear that HD and standard-def channels are separate entities for the purposes of access. Verizon carries the SD versions of the channels, but Cablevision has not made the HD versions available.

"It should be clear by now that whatever problems Verizon is having in the marketplace has nothing to do with a lack of HD programming," said Cablevision in a statement, "and the idea that a phone company more than 10 times our size needs a regulatory bailout is absurd."

Verizon is just the latest to renew its calls for access, or complaints about lack of it, to terrestrial nets. The list includes AT&T, DISH and EchoStar.

AT&T, which has the same problem with access to MSG HD nets in Connecticut for its U-verse video service, sent a letter to Cablevision last week giving it 10 days to begin negotiating before it would ask the FCC to compel the programmer to comply.

"MSG complies with federal regulations," an MSG spokesman said last week in reference to the AT&T letter. "We are pleased to have AT&T as a customer and to provide U-verse subscribers in Connecticut with access to every single game on MSG and MSG Plus."

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