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AT&T's U-Verse Is Cable, Says NCTA

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the FCC in a July 31 letter that it should hold AT&T's U-verse video service to the same regulatory standard it does cable systems.

AT&T has been arguing that its IP (Internet Protocol)-delivered service is materially different and should not be subject to the same franchise-regulation scheme as its cable competition. NCTA counters that: "As a matter of policy, AT&T has not shown that it is offering any video services that are any different from the video offerings being provided by other multichannel video programming distributors," says NCTA. "And even if it had, to the extend laws need to be changed to facilitate deliver of such services, Congress must change them, and any changes must be applicable to all providers of like services."

AT&T recently won a victory in Connecticut, where the in a June 3-2 vote along party lines Wednesday, the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control basically ruled that "a byte is a byte is a byte," as department Chairman Jack Goldberg sad, whether it is video or data.

That means that AT&T, says Connecticut, is "merely another form of data stream," and therefore not subject to cable franchising requirements.

With the decision, Connecticut's incumbent local exchange carriers will now be treated differently as they seek to compete for video business. AT&T, which owns Southern New England Telephone, needs no franchise, while Verizon, which says its service is cable TV, must seek one.

AT&T has agreed not to discriminate in service, to provide public, governmental and educational channels (PEG) and made other guarantees that the DPUC said were "critical" to its approval.

NCTA says Connecticut made the wrong call, and points out it has been appealed.