ACA: Power Cos. Aren't Subsidizing Cable
Indie-Op Group Urges FCC to Reject Pole-Fee Increase
by John Eggerton9/28/2009 2:40:08 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — Electric utilities are not subsidizing cable service and the Federal Communications Commission should reject a petition by a quartet of those companies asking it to increase pole-attachment fees, American Cable Association president Matt Polka said.
American Cable Association president Matt Polka
"Requiring cable providers to pay higher pole-attachment fees simply because they now offer digital phone service over their lines would drive up the cost of advanced cable services for consumers and slow the pace of broadband deployment across rural areas where costs already run higher than average for small, independent cable operators," the ACA, which represents smaller, independent MSOs, said in comments to the FCC.
The FCC is currently deciding how to classify voice-over-Internet protocol phone service and is collecting comments on the utility companies' request for a ruling. Last month, American Electric Power Service Corp., Duke Energy, Southern Co. and Xcel Energy Services asked the FCC to make cable operators pay the phone-company rate for pole attachments, rather than the lower cable rate. Such a move would be justified, the utilities said, because cable-provided VoIP service is the functional equivalent of traditional phone service.
They said the FCC should make that "clarification" before it takes up any related issues in its broadband notice of inquiry or proposed rulemakings on IP services and pole attachments.
The ACA pointed out that the FCC, in its report on rural broadband rollouts, said that "[t]imely and reasonably priced access to poles and rights-of-way is critical to the buildout of broadband infrastructure in rural areas."
The cable industry has long argued that utility companies are well compensated by cable's current payment formula, which has been upheld by the FCC, the Supreme Court (FCC v. Florida Power), and that the agency has correctly applied the formula to attachments for cable-modem service.
The cable industry has argued for lowering the rate for all pole users to that paid by cable to promote the rural deployment the FCC has said is one of the keys to a national broadband-rollout strategy.