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Court Blocks FCC Leased-Access Rules

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati on Thursday blocked the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing new cable leased-access rules, saying there was a “likelihood of irreparable harm” to cable operators.

The stay, sought separately by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and Verizon Communications, was issued by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Our rules will then be stayed until the final litigation,” said FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who fought the cable-back stay request.

Cable went to court to stop rates that third-party programmers need to pay to lease time on cable systems. Although the FCC said it cut rates by 75%, the cable industry claimed that the new rate formula in many instances would produce zero revenue.

“NCTA has demonstrated some likelihood of irreparable harm. The balance of the harms and the public interest, as well as NCTA’s potential of success on the merits, supports a stay pending review of the FCC’s order,” the 6th Circuit panel said.

The court stay was the fourth issued within the last few months to block various regulations supported by Martin.

The FCC’s rules were to take effect on May 28 or when the Office of Management and Budget approved portions of the FCC’s order, whichever is later.