AT&T files complaint with FCC against Cablevision

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:17pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - AT&T Inc filed a complaint on Thursday with the Federal Communications Commission, alleging anti-competitive practices against Cablevision Systems Corp in a bid to gain access to high definition programing from its Madison Square Garden network.

AT&T is the second telecommunications company to recently file a program access complaint against Cablevision. More than one month ago, Verizon Communications Inc filed a similar complaint with the FCC with the same goal, which is to access the lucrative New York regional sports market.

That market includes games played by the New York Knicks basketball team as well as New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils ice hockey teams.

Cablevision owns the Knicks and the Rangers.

AT&T said FCC rules prohibit cable operators like Cablevision from engaging in conduct that prevents other video providers from offering a competing service to consumers

AT&T currently provides its customers in Connecticut with standard MSG programing.

Cablevision said in a statement that AT&T is late to the game and doesn't want to play by the rules.

"Their customers already receive every single game offered on MSG and MSG Plus," Cablevision said. "Now they want the FCC to force MSG to hand over its HD programing, which is a product of many years of technological development and investment. The idea that a phone company more than 15 times our size needs a regulatory bailout is absurd."

It could take up to five months for the FCC to respond.

(Reporting by John Poirier, additional reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing Bernard Orr)

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