Internet-protocol television is "merely another form of data stream" and not subject to cable-franchising requirements, according to a tentative decision by the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control.
If the decision receives final approval June 7, the regulator's action would allow the rollout of IPTV by AT&T Inc.'s state division, Southern New England Telephone Co., without oversight by the commission.
Verizon Communications Inc., according to the commission, has already agreed that its fiber-to-the-home service is a cable service. When the telco is ready, it will pursue certification.
AT&T has always argued that its planned video service does not meet the legal definition of a cable product, and Connecticut regulators are the first known to consider ruling in the telco's favor.
Jack Goldberg, chairman of the panel that drafted the decision and vice chairman of the DPUC, said Friday that there is no difference between bytes constituting voice or video traffic.
The panel also rejected arguments by the cable industry that telcos will economically discriminate with the new service. The choice of the telephone companies to invest and deploy network facilities in those areas where it expects the greatest initial return on its investment is "understandable and akin to the network deployment of the incumbent cable operators over the years." Sound business practices dictate that the telcos deploy in this manner, the panel wrote, adding that it does not constitute economic "red-lining."