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AT&T, Verizon Push FCC to Resolve Complaints In Wake of Court Decision

AT&T and Verizon have called on the FCC to deal with their long-standing program access complaints now that a federal court has upheld most of the FCC's decision to start applying program access rules to terrestrially delivered networks.

In a statement, Bob Quinn, SVP of federal regulatory, for AT&T, said that the decision should ensure that cable companies "cannot withhold popular programming, including HD sports programming, from their competitors." Which means, he said, that the FCC should get moving on its program access complaint against Cablevision in Connecticut.

AT&T refiled its complaint in July 2010 in the wake of the FCC's January 2011 ruling that there was now a rebuttable presumption that withholding co-owned terrestrially-delivered programming was unfair. AT&T in its initial complaint had sought access to HD feeds for MSG and MSG Plus regional sports nets.

While the court generally upheld the FCC, it rejected the commission's contention that what was considered unfair in satellite delivery was necessarily unfair when it came to terrestrial. Cablevision suggested the opera was not quite over.

"We are pleased the Court of Appeals vacated the FCC's order in part and is requiring the FCC to reconsider the idea that exclusive terrestrial programming contracts are categorically unfair," said Cablevision in a statement. "As we've said all along, and as the Court today reinforced, given the local and regional nature of terrestrial programming such exclusives can be highly pro-competitive, particularly in markets like New York with as many as five video providers.  Verizon and AT&T, the nation's two largest phone companies, should be required to compete based on the quality of their products and not by manipulating federal law."