Cox playing hardball with AT&T in San Diego

The baseball season hasn't even started and AT&T already wants the FCC to hurry up and umpire its donnybrook with Cox Communications. The phone company wants to carry San Diego Padres broadcasts on its U-Verse service but is being stymied by Cox, which has been using a loophole to keep the ballgames on its own system.

The 1992 Cable Act requires cable companies to provide access to their programs at reasonable rates. Cable's local sports exclusivity comes from a loophole in the act that says terrestrial broadcasts, such as the Padres games on Cox channel 4, need not be shared because they aren't beamed to satellites.

The FCC said in January that the loophole would close April 2. At the same time it gave cable operators the right to challenge and the operators have done so in a process that could take multiple months to sort out, cutting well into the baseball season. AT&T, in a letter to the FCC, said something has to happen sooner or it would "continue to suffer anti-competitive harm at the hands of Cox."

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