Federal Judge Stands By Conn. IPTV Ruling

A federal court judge will stand by her ruling that the board of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control erred when it ruled that Internet protocol-delivered video products are not cable services and can't be regulated like them.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on Oct. 2 issued the ruling, rejecting a motion for reconsideration by AT&T Connecticut Inc. 

The case was triggered by the actions of the DPUC board in June 2006. The panel reviewed AT&T's planned U-verse video service and agreed with the provider that because the programming is delivered via broadband and at the demand of the consumer, not in a continuous stream, that U-verse is not a cable service. It is more akin to a data service, the board held, and therefore AT&T was not subject to cable regulation by the state. The Connecticut panel has been the only regulatory body to define U-verse as anything other than a cable service.

The ruling was challenged by the New England Cable Telecommunications Association and the state's Office of Consumer Counsel. On July 7, Arterton issued a summary judgment that went against AT&T and the DPUC. The judge said the DPUC was preempted by federal law. Though federal law describes cable service as a one-way transmission to subscribers, definitions in the 1984 Cable Act specifically contemplate some subscriber interaction, she concluded. The fact that AT&T's customers will interact with a pool of programming is not enough to justify defining IPTV as a non-cable product, she indicated.

AT&T asked the judge to reconsider, alleging she didn't give "appropriate deference" to Federal Communications Commission rulings and other points of law, but the judge countered that AT&T's arguments "misinterpreted" her original summary judgment ruling.

The judge's ruling came one day after AT&T took advantage of a change in state franchising law and applied to be certified as a "competitive video provider," regulated by the DPUC.