Verizon warns cable rules 'could be fatal' for online television

Verizon wants the Federal Communication Commission to make room for TV packages that come over the Internet, but it is worried that federal rules could prevent the services from getting off the ground.

Last week, top Verizon executives met with FCC officials to discuss the possibility of new rules that would allow companies to offer cable TV packages through the Web.


There are “potential benefits” to that move, Verizon said in a regulatory notice summarizing the meeting, but also major potential concerns.

Verizon has a ”strong view that the legacy regulatory regime” for cable companies “should not apply to [Web-based] video services or providers and could be fatal to such services,” Leora Hochstein, Verizon’s executive director of federal regulatory affairs, wrote in the filing.

The FCC is mulling whether to expand its traditional cable rules to some types of online TV. 

Though no formal proposal has yet been released, the move could lay the groundwork for new types of online-only services with live programming on multiple channels. The Internet services could rival satellite or cable TV subscriptions from companies like as Comcast or DirecTV.

While the potential rules would likely make sure that online companies could have the same access to channels as traditional TV companies, they would also likely come with obligations.

In their meeting, Verizon specifically pointed to existing “must-carry” rules that require cable companies to include broadcast channels, such as NBC and CBS on their lowest subscription tier, as well as rules on franchising, as ones that could be problematic. 

Verizon is reportedly working on an online video service that would launch sometime next year.

CEO Lowell McAdam said earlier this year that Internet-only video — technically known as “over-the-top” programming — “is right around the corner.”

Earlier this month, HBO and CBS announced plans to offer stand-alone Web streaming services. While those companies would not be subject to new rules since they are offering just a single channel, the announcements make clear that more and more companies are eyeing new services on the Web.