OMB Approves Three Parts Of FCC's Terrestial Exemption Decision: Sources

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Federal Communications Commission
sources confirm that the Office of Management and Budget has approved the three
portions of the agency's terrestrial exemption decision that required vetting
under the Paperwork Reduction Act.
That means the FCC can start dealing with
complaints under the rule change as soon as those portions are published in the
Federal Register.
The
commission in January voted to scrap that exemption and create the rebuttable presumption that MSO's that do not allow nondiscriminatory access to co-owned terrestrial nets are
violating access mandates that previously had been interpreted as applying only
to satellite-delivered nets.
The
three elements of that decision that just got approved are the ones that deal
with the filing and processing of program- access complaints. The rule change
had gone into effect April 2, but the FCC's ability to deal with complaints
based on the change have not taken effect, as the agency awaited OMB approval and publication
in the Federal Register. With that approval now secured, various sources say
that publication should come in the next few days.
OMB has
to vet any information collection requirements in new rules or rule changes to
make sure they are not overly burdensome in the dead tree--or virtual dead
tree--department. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association had filed
a letter with OMB pointing to the paperwork burdens of the changes, but that
was rejected.
In light
of the rule change, AT&T had asked the FCC to review an earlier complaint
against Cox over access to its terrestrially delivered San Diego net, Channel
4, which carries the San Diego Padres games. But that complaint is likely moot
since Cox several weeks ago informed AT&T, Dish Network and DirecTV that the
channel was available for carriage
.
Cox
spokesman Todd Smith said that the rule change is partly behind the decision to
make it available, but that it was not timed to coincide with the OMB approval.
Comcast has taken some heat over its terrestrially delivered net in Philly.
 "[W]e have no changes to the distribution of Comcast Sportsnet
Philadelphia to announce," said a spokesperson. "We are not
challenging the FCC rule and plan to address any complaints if and when they
are filed."
In fact,
when announcing the FCC's decision in January, the FCC also signaled it had in
mind sports nets in San Diego, Philadelphia and New York.
AT&T
filed a complaint against Cablevision last year over access to its HD
programming--Cablevision has challenged the FCC's terrestrial exemption
decision in court. Part of that exemption
decision was that MVPDs will not be able to deliver a standard-definition
version of a regional sports network and withhold the HD version as a way of
complying with access requirements. The HD version is treated as a separate
service for purposes of filing program-access
complaints.

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