Verizon Supports Program-Access Extension


The Federal Communications Commission should extend a law that permits pay TV competitors to demand access to satellite-delivered cable channels owned by cable operators, Verizon Communications executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications Tom Tauke said.

“We support an extension of the program-access requirement for three years at the FCC. We’re supporting that. Not sure if it will be needed after that, but we think now it’s still needed,” said Tauke, whose company is invading dozens of cable markets with its all-fiber FiOS TV service.

Under the rule, Time Warner has to sell CNN to Verizon, DirecTV and EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network, but the per-subscriber license fee charged may vary based on the size of the distributor without clashing with FCC policy. As a result, small distributors tend to pay more per-subscriber than large ones.

“We think we are paying more than the cable companies are paying because we have a smaller customer base. We hope that is corrected over time,” Tauke said. “To date, we have had our challenges with program access, but we have secured the programming that we have sought in order to service customers.”

The FCC has until Oct. 5 to decide whether to extend the rules. Although an agency rulemaking can take one year or more to complete, FCC chairman Kevin Martin hasn’t launched a review of program access. In recent Senate testimony, Martin indicated support for an extension.

In enacting the rules in 1992, Congress gave the agency permission to let them sunset in 2002. The agency declined to do so and tacked on another five years with support from Martin, who at the time wasn’t chairman but a regular FCC member.