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Cable Firms Rip Conn. IPTV Order

Citing possible pre-emptive action by the federal government, incumbent cable companies and state officials in Connecticut asked the utility regulator there to stay its own recent order attempting to classify IPTV as a non-cable service.

Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control commissioners on June 7 determined that video products delivered via the Internet — such as what AT&T Inc. plans to do in the state and elsewhere in the country — should be treated the same as any other data streams that flow through the Internet. The impact: such a product wouldn’t require the type of multichannel video franchise that cable companies need to obtain.


The state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal; the state Office of Consumer Counsel; the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association; Cablevision Systems Corp. and units of Charter Communications and Cox Communications Inc. on June 13 asked the DPUC to put the June 7 decision on hold.

“This was a bad, anti-consumer decision by the DPUC,” NECTA president Paul Cianelli said last week. “The agency should not compound its misjudgment by rushing to implement a decision that is likely to be pre-empted by Congress, the [Federal Communications Commission] and the courts.”

The day after the DPUC made its groundbreaking classification, Congress voted to adopt HR 5252, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the decision opponents noted.

Barton’s bill, as currently written, would give the FCC the authority to grant 10-year franchises to new providers such as AT&T or Verizon Communications Inc.

The stay request also notes that the Connecticut commissioners disagreed over the legal issues stated in the decision, leading to a 3-2 vote.

“A strong likelihood of a court-issued stay being issued certainly must be recognized by the department,” according to the stay request, especially as the Connecticut decision would grant AT&T far more rights with fewer consumer protections than are contemplated than federal regulation would provide.


Opponents of the decision say the utility panel should retain jurisdiction over AT&T’s video efforts until a court rejects or affirms the state ruling — or until Congress completes its actions or the FCC rules on the legal definition of IPTV.

Until then, AT&T should be required to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the state before it installs any video-related infrastructure in the state, opponents have argued.