Maine officials will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that temporarily blocks a new state law requiring cable companies to provide TV programming on an à la carte basis.

Cable companies and broadcasters filed a lawsuit in September over the law, which would be the first in the country to require cable TV providers to offer content on a channel-by-channel and even program-by-program basis. Most cable operators offer TV programming on a tier basis, requiring consumers to buy a package of channels rather than choosing the individual programs or channels they want.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen ruled in December that the cable companies are likely to prevail on their claim that it harms their First Amendment rights and that the law should be blocked while the legal case proceeds. She said the state hadn’t shown that requiring à la carte options would reduce prices and make cable TV more affordable. She was not won over by another argument from the plaintiffs – that Maine’s law conflicts with federal legislation governing cable companies – but she still put the new statute on hold.

Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey filed a notice of appeal Friday through the U.S. District Court in Bangor. The case will now go to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and both sides will likely file written briefs and participate in oral arguments. A spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office shared a written statement from Frey via email.

“While we certainly respect the lower court’s thoughtful decision, this issue merits appellate review,” Frey said. “We continue to contend that the First Amendment does not give cable companies the right, as a business decision, to force customers to buy dozens of channels they don’t want just to get the two or three they actually watch. The First Amendment is about protecting freedom of expression, not protecting business strategies that harm consumers.”

The attorneys for the plaintiffs did not respond to a request for an interview about the case.

A spokeswoman for the Maine Association of Broadcasters said in December the organization was happy with Torresen’s ruling because it freezes implementation of the new law until a trial is held. Torresen set a preliminary trial date in early August, but the appeal will likely delay the case at the trial level.

The association has filed documents in court supporting the cable TV industry’s legal challenge, which was filed by the cable giant Comcast and other providers and broadcasters. Suzanne Goucher, executive director of the organization, said the concern of local broadcasters is that à la carte channel ordering would weaken support for some local stations. Industry rules currently require cable TV companies to carry local channels on their basic, and least costly, tiers of service.

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