It's clear from the comments at PolicyBlog and in other forums that
consumer demand for high-definition programming is skyrocketing.
Verizon is responding by adding new HD channels across the FiOS TV
footprint, with the goal of offering all available major HD
programming by the end of this year.
But sometimes cable companies play hardball with HD programming they
control. Take the MSG regional sports network in New York City and
the MSG-Buffalo channel that we want to be able to offer to future
customers in that market.
Standing in the way is Cablevision, which owns MSG and is preventing
competitors like Verizon getting MSG – a channel that is subject to
the Cable Act's program access rules – in HD format. Under those
rules, Cablevision is required to make that programming available to
Verizon. In 2006, after we filed a program access complaint with the
FCC, Cablevision agreed to provide the standard definition version of
the MSG regional sports network in New York City. But so far
Cablevision is refusing to provide the HD feed for the same
So we're back at the Federal Communications Commission, which is
considering various issues concerning access to video programming.
It's pretty obvious that Cablevision is trying to circumvent the
FCC's program access rules by denying Verizon MSG in HD – claiming
that just because Cablevision elects to route the HD format over
fiber, it is somehow not the same "programming" as the standard
definition format delivered using satellites. And as if
Cablevision's motives in evading the program access were not clear
enough, after denying us the HD MSG programming, Cablevision
advertises that it is the only carrier to provide it in HD.
Verizon is asking the FCC to condemn these practices and to clarify
that, if programming is subject to the FCC's rules as Cablevision's
MSG channels are, then competitive providers are entitled to that
programming in all available formats. In other words, the cable
incumbents should not be permitted to circumvent the rules and deny
competitors and consumers the benefits of HD.