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Google Fiber reiterates sports snag to FCC

Time Warner Cable RSN may be source of 'difficulty'

Google has sent a second filing to the FCC reiterating the “difficulty” it has encountered reaching a deal that would give viewers access to regional sports networks in its Google Fiber test bed in Kansas City.

While Google corporate counsel Megan Anne Stull doesn’t specify which particular RSN she is referring to in her letter, filed Wednesday, and neither does the initial filing from Sept. 21, the channel in question is likely Metro Sports, which is owned by Time Warner Cable.

Google has licensed hundreds of channels to date for Google Fiber, a combination of Internet and TV service available through a 100-mile fiber-optic network installed across Missouri and Kansas. But the Internet giant has not been able to get carriage for Metro, which has rights to college and high school basketball games, in markets where TW Cable is the dominant pay-TV provider.

The letter alludes to a phone conversation held between Stull and an FCC official. “They discussed the importance of being able to provide customers with access to must-have live regional sports programming and the difficulty of obtaining this programming. The Google representatives inquired about the continuing ability of competitors and new entrants to access essential regional sports programming as the Commission considers action in the above captioned proceeding.”

TW Cable issued a statement earlier this week suggesting that the company has offered the channel at a “fair and reasonable” price. RSNs are typically among the most expensive networks to license.

TW Cable isn’t the only RSN owner in Kansas City given News Corp. is also active in those markets with Fox Sports Kansas City, which Google Fiber hasn’t landed yet, either. However, it is possible Google is only referring to TW Cable in the filing, which pertains specifically to program access rules, which require any programmer owned by a parent company with holdings in the pay-TV business to make its content available to other distributors for licensing (News Corp. isn’t in the distribution business).

The program-access rules, which were mandated by the 1992 Cable Act, may end up expiring next month but no official determination has yet to be made by the FCC.