Court Upholds FCC's Pole Rates

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A federal court has upheld cable pole-attachment rates against utility companies' claims that the rates were lower than permissible under the constitution.

The decision, handed down Thursday by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, effectively protects cable operators around the country from paying inflated rates for stringing wires to telephone poles controlled by power companies.

Alabama Power Co. and other power firms took the Federal Communications Commission to court after the agency refused to allow the company to increase its annual per-pole rate to $38.81 from $7.47.

The court ruled that except in two circumstances not raised in the case, the $7.47 rate represented just compensation for the pole owners.

"[The] U.S. Court of Appeals decision is very good news for consumers. It means that utility companies like Alabama Electric cannot charge arbitrary prices for cable attachments to utility poles resulting in higher costs of cable-TV and broadband services," National Cable & Telecommunications Association general counsel Neal Goldberg said.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the cable industry a victory when it held that the FCC had authority to set cable pole-attachment rates not only when cable operators provide traditional video services, but also advanced data service, such as high-speed Internet access.

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