Back in March, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on whether to extend the “program access rules” for another five years, either as they exist now or in some modified form. For those unfamiliar with the program access rules, they require a cable or satellite provider that also owns programming to make that programming available to rivals on commercially reasonable terms. For example, Cablevision has to sell AMC to Verizon for at least a facially reasonable price, even if it would rather not sell AMC to Verizon at all.
Congress required the FCC to create the program access rules as part of the 1992 Cable Act. Because Congress did not particularly trust the FCC to do a good job fighting cable market power, it gave the FCC very explicit instructions in Section 628(c) (codified at 47 U.S.C. 548(c)). But it also said the rules would expire after 10 years, unless the FCC extended them. The FCC extended the rules for 5 years in 2002, and again in 2007. Without another extension, the Program Access Rules will expire on October 5, 20122.