Federal Communications Commission has recently rejected a petition filed by Wave Broadband®, who alleged that Comcast® used unfair business practices that prevented them from airing TV programming to the customers. The Media Bureau of FCC termed the petition as a ‘program access complaint’, and stated that there are deadlines to file complaints of such nature.
“[W]e dismiss the Petition because Wave® did not file within the time limit that our program access rule requires,” said the Commission in a ruling favorable to Comcast®. FCC accepted the argument of the Telco giant that the petition against them from their rival was filed “in the final month of the contract terms, long after the [FCC’s one-year statute of] limitations periods expired.”
Wave Broadband® has over 400,000 subscribers in California, Oregon, Washington, whereas Comcast® has over 22 million TV subscribers nationwide and owns several TV networks. Cable providers pay Comcast® for accesses to TV programming channels. The petition from Wave Broadband® against regional sports networks owned by Comcast® stated that the company’s practices “had the effect of withholding must-have regional sports programming from the largest cable competitor to Comcast Cable® on the West Coast unless Wave® agreed to pay a punitive ransom totaling nearly $3.5 million.”
Both Wave Broadband® and Comcast® signed a contract back in October 2014, that required Wave® to deliver the Comcast-owned sports networks to a particular portion of the overall customers. “Ultimately, Wave® was not able to maintain the contracts’ agreed-upon subscriber penetration percentage terms—a result that Wave® attributes to Comcast’s decision to offer its regional sports networks through different distribution methods—and Wave® agreed in July 2017 to cure the breach of contract with a payment of damages to Comcast®,” noted Federal Communications Commission on the dispute.
The ‘different distribution methods’, refers to the video services that carry online content from Comcast’s sports networks. Many of the customers, who subscribe to TV service, said that Wave® adds an online video service. That is what contributed to Wave’s failure to keep deliver Comcast-owned content to the subscriber percentage as mentioned in the contract.
Wave Broadband® argued that Comcast® made a threat to drop sports networks from the TV service if Wave® did not pay more, which they agreed to in turn seeking refunds. However, Comcast® disputed that Wave® made voluntary commitments in multiple contracts starting in 2005. “Yet Wave® now asks the Commission to declare that the parties’ arrangements under the expired agreements are ‘unlawful’, to absolve Wave’s acknowledged breach of the contracts,” Comcast® told FCC.