Common sense has won out over semantic shenanigans.
The Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control on Monday rejected AT&T’s application to be designated a "competitive video provider" under a new state law, requiring the telco to get a cable franchise instead.
The decision reverses the DPUC’s conclusion last year that AT&T’s IPTV service constituted a data service, not a video service akin to cable. That crafty positioning by AT&T, designed to get around cable-franchising laws, was shot down by two federal judges this summer, who ruled that U-verse TV is for regulatory purposes a cable service.
AT&T says the DPUC’s rejection of its competitive-video-provider application will hurt consumers. (The telco said it will appeal the decision in Connecticut Superior Court.) The agency “ignored both the spirit and the letter of a brand-new consumer-friendly law and is protecting the cable monopoly,” Ramona Carlow, AT&T Connecticut’s president overseeing regulatory and external affairs, said in a statement.
AT&T also cited the support of Connecticut State Sen. John Fonfara and State Rep. Steve Fontana, co-chairmen of the state legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee. They wrote in a letter to the DPUC that the "competitive video provider" law was intended to find a middle ground — providing certain consumer protections while speeding up the franchising process for new video providers like AT&T.
Consumer choice is laudable public-policy goal. But why should a corporation like AT&T, the largest telephone company in the United States with a market cap of around $260 billion, receive special treatment as it tries to poach cable customers simply because it’s sending linear TV channels down an IP pipe rather than a cable pipe?
Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal, who has strongly opposed AT&T’s efforts to avoid being regulated as a cable operator, said the competitive-video-provider law would have let the telco "cherry pick" the wealthiest or most accessible regions, whereas existing cable regulations require making service available in all communities. "I urge AT&T to accept [the DPUC’s decision] — and follow the law — rather than continue to litigate and defy reality and the law," Blumenthal said in a statement issued Monday.
The DPUC on Monday agreed with Blumenthal that the transport mechanism for TV service is irrelevant. Quelle surprise! IPTV is TV, after all.