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Conn. DPUC Rejects Reduced Franchises

Connecticut regulators have rebuffed a petition from a group of state
senators calling for reductions in franchise-renewal spans for cable operators
that raise rates in excess of the cost-of-living index and fail to support
community programming.

Operators called the petition an attempt at "backdoor rate-making" by the
frustrated legislators and praised the Department of Public Utility Control for
rejecting it.

Last June, a group of state senators petitioned the DPUC to open a docket on
cable regulation.

The DPUC handles refranchising in Connecticut.

New franchises can run in length from five to 15 years, but the legislators
said 10 years had become the norm.

The DPUC said in a draft earlier this week that it would take no action on
the legislators' petition.

The agency said a formula suggested by lawmakers that compared prices and
system productivity was pre-empted by federal law. And regulators disagreed that
the ability to offer mini-tiers or à la carte offerings would save operators
money, thereby cutting consumer rates.

The draft also dismissed claims that rate hikes can be linked to operators'
financial investments in the programmers they carry.

"We're pretty pleased with the draft decision," New England Cable and
Telecommunications Association executive vice president Bill Durand said.

Legislators have one more shot at swaying the DPUC board, which will accept
written arguments through Feb. 25.