MSOs Join NATOA Local-Reg Task Force

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Operators including Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. have committed to an Industry Advisory Committee to be launched by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors to hammer out consensus on local regulatory issues.

"I hope, out of this, we can recognize mutual interests. We'd like local regulators to have an appreciation of competitive pressures," said Cox senior vice president John Spaulding.

Regulators say operators also could develop an appreciation for the depth of documentation required by cities.

Though 25 top MSOs have been solicited to join the group, NATOA president Ron Mallard said operator membership on the committee would be limited to 12, at least for the inaugural year. That amount would be more manageable, he explained.

The committee will not be limited to hardwire cable system operators. NATOA also hopes to gain members from the satellite and wireless industries, too. The trade association will meet once a year at NATOA's annual national meeting, and once via teleconference.

The parties will initially attack issues such as customer service standards, rights-of-way management and pole attachment agreements. The committee would use the meetings to generate "white papers" detailing items of consensus on varied issues.

When asked if the regulators hope to curtail lawsuits, Mallard said, "That's exactly what we hope to be a benefit of this effort." He added he doubted the committee can end all suits or Federal Communications Commission hearings, but expressed hope that the committee could head off cases such the one which pit Santa Cruz County, Calif. v. Charter Communications. That was a struggle over the transfer of ownership of Charter to billionaire Paul Allen. The county eventually rejected the transfer and the two parties ended in up court. The county lost in state court but is appealing.

The parties also hope to develop national templates on issues such as franchising.

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