Back in June, we highlighted an interesting legal fight between LUS Fiber, a municipally owned Lafayette, La. based triple play provider, and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC). NCTC is a buying consortium for small cable companies, offering discounted rates for expensive programming content, based on the aggregation of their member’s subscribers.
LUS Fiber wants to join NCTC to gain access to their cheaper programming costs, but has been denied membership so far by NCTC. LUS has cried foul and accused their main competitor, Cox Communications, who is NCTC’s largest member and holds a board seat, of blocking their membership. The dust up has led to LUS filing a complaint with the FCC, alleging anticompetitive conduct, and hoping for some type of relief.
The NCTC responded with a lawsuit, claiming the complaint should be heard and settled in federal court, not at the FCC. But as 2theadvocate.com reports, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil tossed out that lawsuit and ruled that the FCC should have jurisdiction over this complaint, not the federal courts.
But before all the munis and telcos who have unsuccessfully tried to join NCTC rejoice too loudly, this case is far from over. The FCC hasn’t even ruled as to when they will hear this case, much less offer any judgment on it. It’s not entirely clear what ruling, if any, the FCC could make and what impact that ruling would have on the controversy surrounding NCTC and its rather ‘gray area’ cooperative membership criteria. Would be interested in any qualified legal professional’s take on this ongoing debate in the comments section below. Stay tuned.