NCTA: Liberated Bells Can’t Skip Franchising


A decision by the Federal Communications Commission to deregulate any broadband service of Verizon Communications should not give the Baby Bell a license to provide cable television without a local franchise, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in a recent FCC filing.

Verizon, SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. have all asked the FCC to use its forbearance authority to strip away common-carrier rules that apply to their broadband facilities and digital-subscriber-line services.

Although the NCTA did not oppose granting those requests, the cable trade group said broadband deregulation did not mean that cable regulations, such as franchising, would also be eliminated.

“Since Verizon has indicated its intention to offer cable service, the [FCC] should make it clear that this proceeding will have no bearing on the applicability of [cable statutes] to the company’s provision of cable service,” the NCTA said in the March 10 filing regarding Verizon’s petition for broadband regulatory forbearance.

A Verizon official has said that the company plans to obtain local franchises to offer video, but the company wants authority to come from state regulators in order to eliminate having to bargain with each community.

In a matter now before the New York Public Service Commission, Cablevision Systems Corp. and others March 2 accused Verizon of building a cable system on Long Island without local approval

The NCTA also urged the FCC that to the extent the Bells obtain broadband relief, the same relief should be granted to “all similar broadband platforms,” including cable.

Cable-modem service is already deregulated by virtue of the FCC’s March 2002 ruling that cable’s high-speed-data product is an information service. But the Supreme Court might rule later this year that cable-modem service is a telecommunications service governed by the same common-carrier rules current applicable to the Bells’ DSL service.

“By taking this action, the [FCC] will ensure that if cable-modem service is found subject to [common-carrier rules] and Verizon’s broadband services are found subject to forbearance, then cable-modem [and] other broadband services, and Verizon’s broadband services, will be treated similarly,” the NCTA said.