Comcast of Maine/New Hampshire, et al. v. Governor of Maine, et al., No. 19-cv-410 (D. Me). Complaint filed September 6, 2019.
Maine enacted a statute that requires cable service providers to offer single servings of media to consumers. Media giants, whether in the provision of technology or content, or a mix of both, denounce this plan as an impermissible encroachment on the federal scheme governing media nationally and as an impermissible imposition of content restriction in violation of the corporations’ First Amendment rights.
Cable provider Comcast, joined by news and media networks, has filed an action against Maine and several of its townships to obtain declaratory and injunctive relief.
Preemption Claim. Federal law governing communications expressly preempts state law in the regulation of cable services. Even if the state law were not specifically preempted, the Maine law would fail because of conflict preemption. A carrier cannot comply with the federal scheme, which recognizes the provision of services in ‘tiers’ from basic channels to more enhanced, and comply with the selective services contemplated by Maine.
First Amendment Claim. The carriers and providers assert that they negotiate broadcast and copyright and packaging agreements in contemplation of the tiers of service hierarchy. These choices reflect the exercise of constitutionally recognized and protected First Amendment Speech rights.
The Maine statute, by compelling compliance with a government scheme for service provision not bargained for or agreed upon by broadcasters and content providers, encroaches upon their exercise of speech rights.
The statute cannot serve any state interest as the statute is preempted by federal law, plaintiffs aver. Even if it were not, the state cannot demonstrate any compelling, or even legitimate, interest in mandating enhanced access to programming where currently thousands of choices are available through cable services and through online sources such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Where the Maine statute materially and substantially disrupts the conduct of negotiations and contractual obligations as it now exists, Maine cannot demonstrate that its interjection of state law requirements into the federally regulated landscape is sufficiently narrowly tailored to meet the state’s purported end.
Briefing will continue throughout October, with oral argument on the request to enjoin the state to be held on November 1, 2019.
This case will no doubt be closely watched by both industry, government, and consumer groups, for as the old adage has it, “as Maine goes…..”
Response to Motion for Preliminary Injunction due October 7, 2019
Reply to Response to Motion for Preliminary Injunction due October 15, 2019
Motion to Dismiss due October 7, 2019
Response to Motion to Dismiss due October 15, 2019
Reply to Motion to Dismiss due October 22, 2019
Defendants’ Responses to Motions for Leave to File Amicus Briefs due October 7, 2019
Plaintiffs’ Responses to Motions for Leave to File Amicus Briefs due October 15, 2019
Replies to Motions for Leave to File Amicus Briefs due October 22, 2019