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FCC Decides in Favor of Tennis Channel in Discrimination Case Against Comcast

Maintaining its innocence, Comcast claims that its First Amendment rights are being trampled

The Tennis Channel emerged victorious in its battle with Comcast on Monday, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rendered a decision agreeing with the channel's discrimination complaint against Comcast.

“We are gratified that the Federal Communications Commission has today definitively held that Comcast has discriminated against Tennis Channel in the terms and conditions of its carriage on Comcast systems and in favor of its wholly owned networks, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network," the network said in a statement Monday. "Now that the Commission has definitively ruled, we invite Comcast to work with us to ensure Tennis Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network are equally available to Comcast viewers.  While our network will benefit greatly from the broader carriage, ultimately it is the consumer who has won today."

The FCC has given Comcast 45 days to rectify its discriminatory policy toward the Tennis Channel and provide it with carriage equivalent to the Golf Channel and the NBC Sports Network.

The Tennis Channel filed its complaint in early 2010, alleging that Comcast isolates the channel to a premium tier that reaches only a fraction of the viewers that Comcast-owned networks such as the Golf Channel reaches on a basic tier.

Last summer, a lawyer with the FCC tended to agree with Tennis Channel's complaint, recommending that Comcast be fined $375,000 for its actions.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Comcast disagreed with the FCC's decision on Monday, calling it a case of "dramatic regulatory overreach."

"We are disappointed in today’s FCC decision in the litigation brought by Tennis Channel," Comcast said in a statement. "Today’s decision represents a dramatic regulatory overreach that cannot be justified given the narrowly tailored statutory directive of Congress."

Citing the dissenting opinions of FCC commissioners Robert McDowell and Ajit Pai, Comcast insisted that Tennis Channel's place on its spectrum was based on impartial financial considerations, and said that the FCC's decision "tramples Comcast's First Amendment Rights."

"As recognized by Commissioners McDowell and Pai in their powerful dissent, the finding here of improper discrimination is inconsistent with crucial evidence," Comcast said. "The majority’s 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."

Comcast vowed that the battle isn't over, however, noting, "we are left with no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies in the courts."