http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/09/wheeler-fcc-nfl-blackout-rule-obsolete-column/15300147/ FCC chairman: Sack the NFL's blackout rule Professional football doesn't need government protection to bolster the bottom line. Blackouts hurt loyal fans. With the first weekend of professional football in the books, two things should be abundantly clear: The NFL is king; and the Federal Communications Commission's sports blackout rules are obsolete and have to go. In 1975 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted rules barring cable from airing a game that has been blacked out on the local television station because it was not sold out – strengthening the NFL's blackout policy . Today the rules make no sense at all. The sports blackout rules are a bad hangover from the days when barely 40 percent of games sold out and gate receipts were the league's principal source of revenue. Last weekend, every single game was sold out. More significantly, pro football is now the most popular content on television. NFL games dominated last week's ratings, as usual, and the Super Bowl has effectively become a national holiday. With the NFL's incredible popularity, it's not surprising that last year the League made $10 billion in revenue and only two games were blacked-out. But the NFL's blackout policy remains a real concern for fans. During last year's playoffs, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Indianapolis hadn't sold out their games 72 hours before kickoff. The only way those games weren't denied to fans was that local businesses bought blocks of tickets just so the game could be officially "sold out." The most egregious case was in Green Bay, where the weather forecast called for a low of minus-15 degrees. Despite decades of unbelievable fan support and loyalty – Green Bay had sold out every regular season game since 1959 – local Packer fans were effectively told that if more people didn't buy tickets to go freeze, the rest of the community wouldn't be able to watch the game on TV. Today, we are blowing the whistle on this anti-fan practice. The NFL should no longer be able to hide behind government rules that punish loyal fans, which is why I am sending to my fellow commissioners a proposal to get rid of the FCC's blackout rules once and for all. It fulfills a commitment I made in June. We will vote on the proposal on September 30. The league is loudly opposing this effort. They claim that the system is "working" and the FCC shouldn't disrupt America's most popular sports league. Unfortunately, it's working a lot better for the league and its owners than it is for the fans, who on average pay nearly $500 to take a family of four to a game. Believe it or not, the league is actually arguing that it's fighting to preserve the FCC's sports blackout rules for the sake of the fans. It says that removing the commission's rules could mean the endof pro football on free over-the-air television and is threatening to move its games to pay services like cable and satellite. It claims this would particularly hurt low-income Americans who disproportionately rely on broadcast television. To hear the NFL describe it, you would think that putting a game on CBS, NBC or Fox was a money-losing proposition instead of a highly profitable multi-billion dollar business. If the league truly has the best interest of millions of American fans at heart, they could simply commit to staying on network television in perpetuity. The bottom line is the NFL no longer needs the government's help to remain viable. And we at the FCC shouldn't be complicit in preventing sports fans from watching their favorite teams on TV. It's time to sack the sports blackout rules for good. Tom Wheeler is chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors. To read more columns like this, go to the opinion front page or follow us on twitter @USATopinion or Facebook.