SBC Expects a Statewide Franchise Soon

Texas could grant SBC Communications Inc. statewide authority to operate its “U-verse TV” Internet-protocol video service by early next month, now that it has filed for a franchise.

The telephone company was the most vociferous backer of a recent telecommunications reform bill that included authorization for non-incumbent providers to get statewide video operating authority.

SBC has consistently said that under its Project Lightspeed initiative to build a fiber-to-the-home network to deliver Internet-protocol video, it will not meet the federal definition of a cable provider. But the Texas law allows applicants to apply as a video provider, which SBC did.

Company spokesman Dave Pacholczyk declined to identify the timeline for rollout for the service, or to say where SBC will launch first. SBC does not want to give Time Warner or any other competitor a road map of its plans, he said.

SBC’s targeted service territory, identified in the Oct. 10 filing, includes San Antonio and regional neighbors Alamo Heights, Balcones Heights, China Grove, Cibolo, Converse, Garden Ridge, Hill Country Village, Hollywood Park, Kirby, Leon Valley, Live Oak, Olmos Park, Schertz, Selma, Shavano Park, Terrell Hills, Timberwood Park, Windcrest and Universal City. Time Warner Cable operates them.

Service in those areas by SBC will be limited to commercial and technical feasibility and access to property, according to the filing.

Verizon Communications Inc. has already launched FiOS TV, a competitive video service, under terms of a local franchise in Keller. It has also separately filed for state operating authority.

“Consumers win when competition for in-home TV services is streamlined. SBC’s application, submitted just 10 days after Verizon’s filing, provides further evidence of the pro-consumer approach Texas state leaders established, and other states should adopt,” said Verizon spokesman Bill Kula.

The Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association has sued to block SB5, the new law enabling state franchising. TCTA says the new policy allows telephone competitors to serve only the most economically viable areas.

The Texas law mandates that the state Public Utility Commission issue a franchise in 17 working days. That will fall on Nov. 2.