Connecticut Legislators Approve Franchise-Reform Bill

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Connecticut legislators, on the last night of their session June 6, approved a franchise-reform bill that will subject AT&T's U-verse TV product to some regulation.

This is notable because, in a

controversial decision in 2006, the state’s Department of Public Utility Control concluded that the telco’s Internet-delivered product is not the same as a cable service

and therefore not subject to regulation. That regulatory ruling is being challenged in federal court by the New England Cable Telecommunications Association.
AT&T has argued to regulators across the country that U-verse is different from traditional cable service and, therefore, not subject to the same regulatory burdens.

Other than Connecticut, jurisdictions such as Anaheim, Calif., and Reno, Nev., have brokered operating agreements with the company without resolving the issue. Jurisdictions have reserved the right to regulate U-verse TV like cable if and when a court or the Federal Communications Commission makes a definitive ruling on the regulatory definition of U-verse.

The new bill will require AT&T to pay the same tax on gross earnings as do incumbent operators. It will also get a three-year exemption from personal property taxes on infrastructure upgrades. Incumbent operators will be allowed to opt into state regulation 30 days after the entry of a new provider. All providers will be relieved of current state customer-service regulations: the state will now recognize the standards set in federal law. 

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