Conn. Attorney General: Make AT&T Get Cable License

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Connecticut's Attorney General filed an emergency petition asking state utility regulators to make AT&T get a cable license for its Internet-protocol-delivered video service, U-verse TV.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal seeks to stop AT&T from constructing new facilities and signing up customers until it has a license.

The petition is in reaction to the July 26 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton. That court ruling overturned a 2006 decision by the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control that determined that U-verse TV does not meet the definition of a traditional cable service.

The DPUC proactively took the action last year to define the new video-delivery method. Because video is delivered at the demand of the consumer -- and in bits and bytes, rather than a continuing stream -- the commissioners agreed with AT&T that the product is not a cable service. That determination was on a close, 3-2 vote of the commission last June. To date, the Connecticut regulators have been the only utility board to try to legally define U-verse TV as anything but a cable service.

The ruling was successfully challenged in federal court by the New England Cable Telecommunications Association and Cablevision Systems.

Blumenthal's action is supported by the Office of Consumer Counsel for the state, William Vallee Jr., another consistent critic of the DPUC U-verse TV action. Both Blumenthal and Vallee said they support competition but added that regulation will ensure a truly competitive market.

The July 26 ruling "decisively cut short the miscalculation embarked upon" by the DPUC, Vallee said in a prepared statement, adding that an unequal playing field for video competitors is unacceptable and illegal.

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