News

Cablers Push FCC for Broadband Roaming

1/31/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington— Looking to boost the
mobile-phone service portion of their
quadruple-play offerings, a pair of cable
operators is pushing the Federal Communications Commission
to extend
its voice-roaming
obligations to mobile
broadband.

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

According to FCC filings, Cox Communications
(which presently resells cell-phone
service in a handful of markets) and Bright
House Networks are pushing the agency to
expand those current obligations.

Those carriers already have to cut voiceroaming
deals, per FCC rules, but the requirement
does not yet extend to data and video.

Verizon and AT&T argue such deals are already
being made without government oversight.
Bright House said there still needs to be
a “backstop” remedy for reasonable terms and
conditions if negotiations fail.

The FCC has argued that mobile broadband
is the big growth area for universal
Internet access. Cable operators that want
to be players in that space are looking for
some help from the commission, pushing
the matter as a means of speeding broadband
adoption.

The FCC last April proposed extending its
voice-roaming obligations to broadband data
and video service.

Commissioner Robert McDowell said he
doesn’t think the FCC has the power to power
up cable’s cell phone business. “I think
that after the D.C. Circuit’s Comcast decision,
I am finding it hard to locate where the FCC
would get legal authority to mandate data
roaming,”the Republican said, adding that
he was “still willing to hear all perspectives
on that question.”

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