News

Cable Expects Wireless Aid From FCC

4/04/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Cable operators next
week expect to get help in the wireless broadband
space from the Federal Communications
Commission.

After recently acting to keep
pole-attachment rates from rising
(“Cable to Get a Break On Its
Phone Bills,” March 28, 2011), the FCC is likely on
Thursday (April 7) to help pave
the way for widespread dataroaming
agreements mirroring
rules on voice roaming.

The commission is continuing
to act on its top mission of
promoting broadband deployment,
an overarching mandate that has cut
both ways for cable operators.

The downside of that mission, as far as cable
is concerned, is that it was part of the impetus
behind the network-neutrality rules.
It also has helped inspire the universal settop
proceeding that cable operators are
concerned could become a means to disaggregate
content to serve the “greater good” of
broadband adoption.

The FCC is expected to vote to require cellular
carriers to strike data-roaming deals
under fair and reasonable terms,
opening the way for cable operators
to make the fourth leg of their quadrupleplay
bundles — cell phone service — more
competitive.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski essentially
confirmed the move in his March 22
speech to the International CTIA Wireless
2011 convention and at press time, the April
7 vote was expected to be unanimous.

“Consumers everywhere want the ability to
roam anywhere, and they want it for all of their
basic mobile services, whether it’s a voice call,
an online check of out-of-town scores, or access
to Web job postings or health information,”
Genachowski said at last month’s wirelessindustry
gathering in Orlando, Fla.

Extending current voice-roaming
requirements to data would mean
that the U.S. wireless carriers with the
most filled-in territory on their coverage
maps — notably Verizon Wireless
and AT&T — would have a government
obligation to make broadbandroaming
deals with other cellular
providers, including cable operators.

Cox Communications (which
presently resells cellular service in a
handful of markets) and Bright House Networks
are among those pushing the agency
to expand current roaming obligations.

Bright House is partnered with Time Warner
Cable and Comcast in Clearwire, which
is attempting to become a player in the
mobile data-traffic business, projected to
double within the next five years.

Cable operators in the wireless broadband
business could also get a boost from
the Obama administration’s push to get next
generation wireless broadband to 95% of the
country in that same timeframe.

September