For years, a lucrative area of business for cable companies was to sign exclusive deals with apartment building and new housing developments, which would effectively lock out competitors from those markets. Often, these deals were signed with the details hidden
in the fine print -- and building owners were even given rewards for not altering the contracts. The companies who signed these deals argued that they could then provide better service if they were guaranteed to be the only provider in a building -- but there doesn't seem to be much evidence that either service or prices were any better in these buildings. Bizarrely, the FCC had approved these deals claiming that they were actually helping
competition (again, there doesn't seem to be much evidence to support that). Of course, when it comes to cable, there really hadn't been that much competition until more recently -- and the telcos who are just now getting into the TV business missed out on their chance to sign these kinds of deals, since the cable companies locked them all up already. So, even though the telcos would love to have these types of exclusive deals themselves, they're too late in the video space. Thus, the telcos have been complaining, and FCC boss Kevin Martin doesn't much like it when his friends at the telcos complain. So it should come as little surprise that the FCC is about to make those kinds of agreements illegal
. The cable companies are gearing up to fight this in court, so it may be a little while before anything happens. Of course, the telcos have often tried to sign similar deals themselves when it comes to broadband access -- so it'll be interesting to see if those are also no longer binding.