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.
"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
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.