The Federal Communications Commission voted 4-to-1 on Wednesday to eliminate the so-called "terrestrial loophole" in a 1992 federal cable law, which requires cable operators to give competitors access to cable-owned programming that is transmitted using satellite connections. Until now, the provision didn't apply when the cable operators send those programs over land-based networks instead.
Using left over infrastructure from the days of the old PRISM Network, Comcast had kept it's Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia channel off satellite television systems in the Delaware Valley since it's creation in 1997, when it replaced PRISM.
The infrastructure fit in to the "terrestrial loophole" that's discussed in the quote and article above, and while it makes sense from a business perspective for Comcast to do everything they can to keep a popular channel they own off of competing systems, it at the same time locked out thousands, if not millions of local sports fans from access to Flyers, Phillies, and Sixers telecasts.
With the FCC's ruling today, the days of that competitive advantage Comcast had over satellite television in the region appear to be over, and now the cable and media giant will be forced to give DirecTV and Dish Network the opportunity to add CSN Philly to their channel lineups.
It's certainly good news for sports fans throughout the Delaware Valley. Many Comcast subscribers have been forced to stay with the company solely so they'd have access to local sports telecasts, and those people will now have options when forking over their money to a television provider.
Verizon FiOS, the only one of Comcast's competitors in the area not fitting into the terrestrial loophole, and therefore the only one with CSN Philly on their channel lineup, is not yet widely available like cable. Many people also live in areas where access to Comcast, the region's only cable provider, is non-existent, leaving them with only satellite as an option.
Now, those people will have access to all the Philadelphia sports they'd like. It may be some time before these rules are put into effect, as there is much legal wrangling to endure. Still, the ball is rolling, and the days of Comcast's domination of the Philadelphia sports fan seem to be coming to a close.