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AT&T Wins Statewide Connecticut Franchise

AT&T was granted a statewide franchise in Connecticut on Thursday, the day after a court overturned a decision that thwarted the telephone company’s expansion into the pay TV business in the state.

The ruling from Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford is a setback for Comcast, Cablevision Systems and other cable TV operators that face accelerated competition in Connecticut.

The decision prompted the state’s Department of Public Utility Controls on Thursday to grant AT&T a Certificate of Video Franchise Authority for its U-verse TV service.

“We are pleased that the DPUC has taken this step on behalf of Connecticut consumers who have long desired more choice in the video marketplace. Credit also goes to our state’s legislators and Governor Rell, who passed a forward-thinking new law that encourages competition,” AT&T Connecticut president Ramona Carolow said in a statement Thursday.

The ruling overturns a decision earlier this month from the DPUC, which had decided that AT&T should be considered a “competitive video provider,” and could not operate in the state without a video franchise.

At the time, AT&T said it would be forced to disconnect about 7,000 U-verse TV subscribers in Connecticut because of the decision.

But late Wednesday, the Superior Court ruled that did not find that AT&T acted unlawfully by operating a pay TV system in Connecticut without a franchise. It also ordered the DPUC to process AT&T’s request for a video franchise, and said that AT&T could continue serving Connecticut subscribers it has already signed up.

“The court declares that the plaintiff is eligible for a video franchise pursuant to [the Video Franchises Act]. The DPUC should process the plaintiff’s application pursuant to the Video Franchise Act. The plaintiff is entitled to continue providing video services while its application is pending pursuant to the Video Franchise Act,” Judge Robert McWeeny said in the ruling.

AT&T launched U-verse TV in Connecticut in December 2006. AT&T said Thursday that the product is now available to more than 150,000 homes in the state. The telco said it will continue to expand its service footprint for U-verse TV.