Conn. Advocate Expresses Telco-TV Worries

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Connecticut consumer counsel Mary Healey has advised the state’s Department of Utility Control that telephone-company-provided video services should be regulated to ensure that state residents are not “provided inferior services.”

Traditional cable operators are required to provide community benefits, prevented from redlining on an economic basis and must provide local communuity-access programming, Healey noted in a statement.

She expressed concerns over statements officials from SBC Communications Inc. made before Congress earlier this year, indicating the telephone company intends to “roll out video services in high-value areas to the exclusion of

economically unattractive potential customers.”

“My office’s mission is to advocate for all Connecticut utility consumers and accordingly, we will act to ensure nondiscriminatory rollout of SBC’s IPTV services,” she said.

SBC is Connecticut’s dominant telco. Company officials have steadfastly asserted that their planned video service, delivered via the Internet, does not fit the regulatory definition of a cable system and therefore does not need a franchise.

SBC has not announced a firm start date for its video offering. Verizon Communications Inc., which is upgrading to fiber-to-the-premises infrastructure, has been pursuing franchises throughout the country while lobbying for changes that will allow for statewide franchising authority.

The state consumer counsel disputes SBC’s contention, noting that the state DPUC has authority over customer-service issues, community-access programming and infrastructure extension.

Connecticut is expected to hold hearing on the telco’s video plans this fall.

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