FCC: IPTV, Satellite Dishes Not 'Functional Equivalents' On Access Fees

The Federal Communications Commission has concluded that because a cable operator doesn't charge a programmer for using a satellite dish to deliver its programming to the headend, it doesn't mean it must absorb the cost of broadband delivery of programming by a leased-access programmer.

The commission concluded Friday that the Internet and satellite program delivery are not "functional equivalents," when it comes to the FCC's prohibition on cable operators charging leased access programmers fees for technical support they provide non-leased access programmers at no charge.

That decision came in the FCC Media Bureau's denial of a complaint filed by Charlie Stogner of StogMedia against Cable One systems in Long Beach and Biloxi, both of Mississippi.

Stogner complained that Cable One was charging his company to deliver his programming via the Internet, while not charging other programmers to use satellite receiving dishes at their headends, which he claimed was discriminatory.

Cable One countered that no other programmer -- leased or otherwise -- delivers programming to those systems via broadband, and that it has to pay AT&T for its broadband capacity. The FCC's rules require leased access programmers to reimburse cable operators for "the reasonable cost of any technical support actually provided by the operator that is beyond that provided for non-leased access programmers."

"Because Cable One does not provide free broadband capacity to any leased access or non-leased access programmer for the delivery of video programming to its headends, it is entitled to charge StogMedia for the reasonable costs of such services," the FCC concluded.

The agency went on to say that the satellite dishes were a collection point for programming, and did not absolve StogMedia of the responsibility of getting the programming to the headend.

"I am disappointed in the ruling," said StogTV principal Charlie Stogner, who has been pushing the FCC for a decision for months. "I wish that there was some procedure for investigation when petitions are filed. I know of use of broadband in headends by cable sites and feel that the intent of the law was for us to have the same level playing field that they want."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.