Cable Group Alerts FCC After Viacom

The American Cable Assn., which represents small- and medium-sized cable and Internet providers, says that Viacom is retaliating against some of its members who refuse to pay “exorbitant fee increases” for low-rated channels by blocking access to Viacom websites.

The president of the association, Matthew Polka, says that such blocking should be addressed by the FCC as it draws up a new set of net neutrality rules. Those rules have been aimed at Internet providers, but Polka says that recent disputes show that such open Internet provisions are also needed to cover content companies’ own websites.

Polka had a teleconference on Monday with Gigi Sohn, special counsel for external affairs for FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, to talk about the issue.

The ACA said that broadband subscribers of two of its members, Cable ONE and Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, were being denied access to Viacom websites in “retaliatory efforts” because the two companies refused to pay hefty fee increases for Viacom cable channels. Polka pointed to other examples, like CBS’ blocking of its websites during its dispute with Time Warner Cable last year.

“Viacom’s move is momentous because of the policy and industry debate occurring right now regarding the fundamental tenets of Internet openness, which include allowing consumers to reach the lawful content of their choice,” Polka said in a statement. “In selectively blocking these users’ access, Viacom is violating Internet openness in a way that should be seen as a call to action to policymakers on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission.”

In a statement, Viacom said that “Cable ONE and Liberty Cablevision have chosen to no longer carry Viacom programming and, as a result, it is no longer available to their customers in any form.”

In other impasses, content companies have argued that the open Internet shouldn’t mean that their websites are universally available even to non-subscribers, just as Netflix and HuluPlus are available only to those who pay a monthly subscription.

 

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