Update: FCC rules that Comcast can’t keep SportsNet to itself, but it’s not over yet — an appeal is likely

Hold on to your Phillies, Flyers and Sixers hats, Philadelphia sports fans — the U.S. Federal Communications Commission ruled last week that Comcast Corp. now has to start making its Comcast-only SportsNet programming available to satellite TV providers.

The FCC ruling came in a 4-1 decision to close a “terrestrial loophole” that had allowed Comcast to keep SportsNet all to itself and its customers for years, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In a blog post here on Blog.MyPhilly Lawyer.com last month, we described how Comcast doesn’t make Comcast SportsNet available to satellite companies such as DirecTV and Dish Network  for broadcast, due to the loophole.  That means that viewers who subscribe to the satellite services can’t get all the Phillies, Flyers and Sixers games that are broadcast solely on Comcast SportsNet.  The longtime loophole in the FCC’s regulations allowed this “monopoly,”  but the recent FCC ruling said it was no longer allowable.

Only Comcast subscribers can currently receive SportsNet broadcasts, but that could change soon. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Fentin

The Comcast-friendly rule meant that real competition wasn’t possible between Comcast and the satellite vendors because if you wanted to receive Comcast SportsNet broadcasts, you had to stay with Comcast.  Many customers have balked at this for years.

Now that could be changing, but there’s a caveat.

Comcast will likely appeal the FCC decision, which will certainly delay final resolution of the matter.  So now we must wait patiently to see what happens.

The bottom line, though, is that this is a good decision that finally rights an old rule that may have had a place at one time, but is out of date today in a world of high-speed broadband connections, online streaming video content and HD TV.

“Consumers who want to switch video providers shouldn’t have to give up their favorite team,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement after the Jan. 20 hearing, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

We couldn’t have said it better.