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Group to FCC: Stop Terrestrial Loophole

In comments recently sent to the Federal Communications Commission, the Consumers Union asked the agency to eliminate the so-called terrestrial loophole, saying that cable operators with key programming assets are "gaming the system" in an effort to maintain a lock on popular content.

Through the terrestrial loophole, a cable operator with programming assets can avoid program access requirements that apply to satellite delivered content by sending programming through terrestrial means. The loophole has been a thorn in the side of satellite TV companies for years, given that they cannot access certain programming properties.

In a letter sent to the FCC, the Consumers Union said cable operators are exploiting the loophole, "using popular programming that they own to hold consumers hostage to expensive rates and shoddy customer service," the group said.

"We see no reason or logic that suggests that program access rules should be specific to one type of technology versus an alternative that did not exist at the time the rules were first enacted in 1992," the advocacy organization said in its letter.

The group's comments were part of a larger letter addressing program access rules and channel tying arrangements that are at times required by programmers. In its correspondence, Consumers Union said the FCC should require programmers to offer pay-TV companies access to unbundled program packages and provide guidelines for resolving program access disputes.

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