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Comcast, Cable TV Companies Sue Maine Over A La Carte Law

AUGUSTA, Maine—Another chapter in the story between cord-cutting and pay-TV/cable services is going on in Maine, as Comcast and a number of cable operators, including Fox, CBS and Disney, have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the state and 17 of its municipalities for a law set to be enacted on Sept. 19 that would require cable system operators to provide an a la carte option to customers. This story was first reported by Bangor Daily News.

Comcast and the other members of the lawsuit are saying that the proposed bill is preempted by federal law and are seeking a delay of the bill.

The bill, which would add the a la carte requirement to an already existing state law, was introduced by Rep. Jeff Evangelos (I) in an attempt to address the complaint that TV viewers must buy a cable package full of channels that they are not interested in.

This complaint is often credited as a key factor in the rise of cord-cutting, which has been particularly prevalent in Maine. A 2019 survey found that Maine residents cut the cord at a higher rate than all but 10 states.

“I want to watch the Red Sox, but I don’t want to watch [televangelist] Jimmy Swaggart, so I shouldn’t be forced to pay for that,” Evangelos argued.

The official lawsuit filed by Maine lobbyist Josh Tardy and Washington, D.C.-based lawyers for Comcast reads that the proposed law “would imperil the survival of many programming networks, particularly those serving niche audiences, thereby detracting from programming diversity and quality.”

Maine Public Advocate Barry Hobbins noted in a state document back in March that providers have previously been successful in arguing that such a la carte requirements were preempted by federal law. However, in a letter from the FCC to Hobbins, the commission says that there is no FCC ruling that addresses the a la carte issue and this law being preempted is “a question of first impression.”