Public interest advocates and new entrants into the video business are fighting to preserve the FCC's "program access" rules, set to expire in October, 2012. FCC Chairman Genachowski has indicated that he intends to let the rules die. If so, the cable companies will amass even more power over what viewers can see. The rules require operators that own programming to make that content available to rival pay-TV distributors such as satellite broadcasters.
If you've never heard of program access rules, you're not alone. But a coalition of public interest groups and non-cable carriers have been lobbying the FCC to keep the rules. Recently, the Sports Fan Coalition, Public Knowledge, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T and Verizon met with FCC commissioners in a last-ditch effort to keep the rules.
Genachowski reasons that the rules are no longer needed. According to the Los Angeles Times:
"Created 20 years ago as part of the 1992 Cable Act, the program access rules played a key role in the development of the satellite broadcasting industry... Now that satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network have established themselves as legitimate competitors and the number of cable companies that own content has been greatly diminished, the FCC is prepared to let the regulations sunset on Oct. 5."
But this ignores an important fact: the cable companies -- with Comcast in the lead -- own multiple regional sports networks and can, if the rules expire, refuse to sell that programming to, say, AT&T or DirecTV. Access to sports programming is critical to winning pay-TV customers.
Speed Matters supports retaining the program access rules.
FCC's program access rules headed toward extinction (LATimes, Sep. 14, 2012)
Pending Program Access Item Draws Crowd (Broadcasting & Cable, Sep. 27, 2012)