A tiny Internet streaming company is threatening to file an FCC program access complaint against the venerable C-SPAN in a fight that could test what constitutes a multichannel video programming distributor in this technological age. Launched in Apr, VDC (http://www.vdc.com) offers live streams of linear cable nets on Windows Media-enabled devices, such as PCs or PDAs, for $11.95/mo. It notified C-SPAN Tues of its intent to file a complaint at the FCC. VDC contends that the National Cable Satellite Corp, which operates C-SPAN, refuses to open carriage negotiations. "That’s just flat wrong," said Peter Kiley, C-SPAN’s vp, affil relations, who recounted multiple discussions with VDC, including a lengthy meeting at National Show in Apr. "We are clearly believers in making content available across multiple platforms, and we make content fully available on the Internet via our Website (for free)." He said C-SPAN wants to do its "due diligence" on VDC and make a decision over time. "I don’t think this is a very professional way to approach us," Kiley added. VDC contends that months of formal requests have resulted in "no communications or utterance made in goodwill." Said VDC COO, CTO, vp content acquisition Scott Wolf: "Their attitude seemed to be we’re not going to give you a contract. … Once you get more content, you can approach us." VDC argues National Cable Satellite’s board, composed of several cable execs, wants to "crush any potential competition." Kiley called that notion "laughable," citing C-SPAN’s carriage with DBS, telcos and the ‘Net. In a larger sense, the case (the 1st program access complaint against C-SPAN, at least in recent memory if not ever) raises the question of whether VDC qualifies as an MVPD. Federal rules define an MVPD as a distributor engaged in making available for purchase by subscribers multiple channels of video programming. VDC does distribute programming, but it’s not over its own competitive infrastructure (the ISP owns that). "We feel we fall under the definition. If they say we’re not, what does that mean?" asked Wolf, questioning whether companies like AT&T or Comcast could tweak their business model to wiggle out of MVPD obligations. In the meantime, Wolf’s biggest obstacle may be getting and keeping subscribers with only a limited amount of programming available (its biggest deal is with Discovery, though VDC is only allowed to stream the channel to PDAs and Smartphones-not PCs). Wolf suggested that VDC might file similar program access complaints against Time Warner and Comcast if it’s successful against C-SPAN.

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