American Cable Association President Matt Polka says that power companies are not subsidizing cable service and that the Federal Communications Commission should reject a petition by a quartet of those companies asking it to increase pole attachment fees.
"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," ACA said in comments to the FCC.
The FCC is currently deciding how to classify Voice over Internet Protocal phone service as well as collecting comments on the utility company request for a ruling. Last month, American Electric Power Service Corp. (AEP), Duke Energy Corp., Southern Co., and Xcel Energy Services asked the FCC to make cable operators pay the telecom rate for pole attachments, rather than the cable rate, which is lower, arguing the higher rate was justified because VOIP is the functional equivalent of traditional phone service.
They say 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.
ACA points 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 FCC has correctly applied the formula to attachments for cable modem service. In fact, the cable industry has argued for lowering the rate for everyone to that paid by cable to promote the rural deployment the FCC says is one of the keys to a national broadband rollout strategy.