Washington -- In a ruling involving a major cable operator
in a major market, the Federal Communications Commission has held that Cox Communications
Inc. is totally deregulated in portions of New Orleans as a result of direct competition
from BellSouth Corp.
In a May 6 decision, the FCC's Cable Services Bureau
found that Cox should be deregulated under a provision of the Telecommunications Act of
1996 that triggers rate relief when the video competitor is a local phone company.
The regional Bell operating company's BellSouth
Entertainment unit offers a 128-channel digital-wireless-cable service to 400,000
line-of-sight households in New Orleans.
The FCC granted Cox's petition for "effective
competition" in the communities of Gretna, Harahan, Jean Lafitte, Kenner, Westwego,
Orleans Parish and Saint Bernard Parish.
However, the commission denied relief in Jefferson Parish,
Saint Charles Parish, Plaquemines Parish and Lafourche Parish. The agency said
BellSouth's signal did not reach far enough into these communities to provide actual
competition to Cox.
Because the FCC lost its authority to regulate upper-tier
rates March 31, its decision to deregulate Cox in some communities will apply to the basic
tier. In addition, Cox will no longer be subject to uniform-rate and tier-buy-through
rules in areas where it is deregulated.
Cox filed with the FCC in January 1998, seeking complete
deregulation of its 273,000-subscriber New Orleans cluster about three months after
BellSouth Entertainment entered the market.
The FCC did not say in its decision how many Cox
subscribers would continue to receive basic service at regulated rates.