FCC to vote on exclusive apartment cable TV ban

WASHINGTON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote next week on a proposal to ban exclusive deals between building owners and cable TV providers to give apartment and condominium dwellers greater choice of pay television services.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Wednesday scheduled a vote for the commission’s next meeting on Oct. 31.

The new rule is backed by telecommunications companies such as AT&T T.N and Verizon VZ.N, which have been pushing into the pay TV business around the United States by offering packages of TV, broadband Internet and phone services.

AT&T and Verizon have complained in filings to the FCC that exclusive apartment and condo deals have been an anti-competitive obstacle that harms consumers.

But the proposal has run into objections from cable providers such as Comcast Corp CMCSA.O and Time Warner Cable Inc TWC.N

The cable companies and the industry’s lobbying arm, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, have questioned whether the FCC has the authority to interfere with contracts between cable companies and building owners.

They have voiced even stiffer objections to any provision that would nullify their existing exclusive contracts.

“Abrogating existing commercial agreements between cable operators and (apartment building and condo) owners is unwarranted and unfair as a policy matter, inconsistent with commission precedent, and well beyond the scope of the Commission’s legal authority,” the association said in a letter to the FCC. (Reporting by Peter Kaplan)