The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments on whether all companies providing a cable TV-like service to apartments and condominiums are exempt from obtaining franchises from local municipalities.

SMATVs are satellite master antenna TV services providing programming to apartment buildings in large cities without using a public right of way. In the 1984 Cable Act, Congress exempted some SMATV providers — those that serve condo associations or apartments with individual unit ownership — from the franchising process.

However, the FCC claimed the ’84 bill required a franchise for a company providing SMATV to a group of apartment buildings with a single owner on the same block.

That interpretation was overturned last June.

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