Congressman Brian Higgins welcomed Monday's news of the NFL's decision to suspend its policy of blacking out games not sold out on local broadcast television stations in the 2015 season,
"For many years, I have stood up against the NFL's unfair and outdated blackout policy, which kept fans who have supported their teams - both emotionally and financially - in the dark on game days," Higgins said. "Over the last three years, the momentum has shifted, including recent action by the FCC to repeal its blackout rule. Today, we learn that the NFL is removing their blackout policy for the 2015-16 season, a decision that is long overdue. This is the right move for the league and for the game. The fans spoke, the league listened, and this season everyone will be able to tune in to support their favorite team."
For decades, the NFL has maintained a policy of blacking out games that have not sold out in the home market. In 1975, the NFL changed its blackout rule from requiring a blackout in a home market even if the game was sold out, to the current 72-hour rule. A 1975 FCC rule requires cable companies to abide by the league's blackout policy. The FCC later extended the rule to satellite companies.
In 2012, Higgins began to push back against the sports blackout policies, first writing to the Federal Communications Commission asking it consider eliminating the blackout rule. That was followed by a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking for the league to end its policy.
In 2013, Higgins introduced the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (FANS) Act, supported by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and John McCain in the Senate. The bill would eliminate the federal antitrust exemption that allows the NFL to blackout games.
Last year, the FCC voted to end its blackout rule. Six weeks prior to the vote, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai visited Buffalo to announce his support for eliminating the FCC's rule.
Higgins argued the FCC rule and NFL policy was unfair to taxpayers who support the financing of stadiums, and disproportionately impacted smaller markets like Buffalo, which is home to a large stadium.