Washington -- Cox Communications Inc. is asking for price
deregulation of its 273,000-subscriber New Orleans cluster just three months after
BellSouth Corp. entered the market with a 160-channel digital wireless cable service.
Under federal law, the Federal Communications Commission is
barred from regulating cable rates of operators that face 'effective
Cox is claiming that BellSouth's entry into the New
Orleans market meets the law's requirements for deregulation when the competitor is a
phone company or an affiliate thereof.
'BellSouth offers comparable video programming in
Cox's franchise areas,' Cox told the FCC in a Jan. 28 filing covering four New
Cable operators have filed dozens of petitions asking the
FCC for deregulation due to the presence of a phone company offering cable TV service.
The FCC has been willing to approve petitions that involve
a phone company that is overbuilding the incumbent cable operator. But the agency is
taking a longer look at cases that involve phone-company provision of wireless cable
A BellSouth spokesman had no immediate reaction to the Cox
Generally, phone companies have not filed oppositions to
petitions like Cox's. They say that's in keeping with their view that all
markets should be open and not subject to price regulation.
BellSouth is not releasing subscriber totals. A spokesman
said that even though the New Orleans service launched in November, the company
didn't commence 'a full marketing push' until late January.
'What we are finding is that the customers are very
pleased with our signal and the quality of our picture,' said BellSouth spokesman Tim
Klein said the Baby Bell is planning to launch the same
digital service in Atlanta and in three or four Florida markets later this year.