Verizon Files Access Complaint on MSG HD

Washington -- Verizon Communications
has asked the Federal Communications Commission to force Cablevision Systems and
Madison Square Garden to sell HD feeds of MSG Network and MSG Plus to the telco
for its FiOS TV 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 amended 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 networks to refile the
complaint 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

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 networks.
The list includes AT&T, Dish Network and EchoStar.

AT&T, which has the same
problem with access to MSG and MSG HD Plus 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 Media 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."

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.