Chalk one up for the (relatively) little guys — the FCC just ruled in favor of the Tennis Channel in its discrimination suit against Comcast. Back in January of 2010, the Tennis Channel filed a complaint saying that Comcast was unfairly using its position as the nation's largest cable provider to promote similar channels (like the Comcast-owned Golf Channel and NBC's Sports Channel) as part of its standard package. The Tennis Channel, on the other hand, was only available through a special sports package add-on.
Thanks to the FCC's 3-2 decision in favor of the Tennis Channel (which was voted on party lines), Comcast is required to move the network to a tier reaching the same audience at the same cost as the tier carrying Comcast's Golf Channel and NBC's Sports Channel — the communications giant was also slapped with a $375,000 fine. Unsurprisingly, Comcast disagrees with the FCC's ruling, which marked the first time a cable operator was found violating the FCC's 1993 federal anti-discrimination program carriage rules.
Comcast / NBC Universal president Kyle McSlarrow lashed out against the FCC's decision on the company's blog, saying that the ruling "misapplies the statutory standards for discrimination and competitive harm, ignores evidence demonstrating that Comcast's business decision with respect to Tennis Channel was based on unbiased cost-benefit analyses (and not discrimination), violates the statute of limitations governing Tennis Channel's complaint, and tramples on Comcast's First Amendment rights." Reuters reports that the company will appeal the decision and investigate options for requesting a stay of the decision. The Tennis Channel, which should be available in 18 million more homes, is understandably delighted — the company said in a statement that "this decision could not have come at a better time for Comcast customers across this country, as we approach Tennis Channel's coverage of the U.S. Open ."