NCTA Warns About Pole-Access Fights


As competition in high-speed-data and phone markets heats up, the cable industry is seeking greater government oversight of rivals that could inflict anticompetitive harm on cable systems.

Cable systems need access to telephone poles and underground conduits to reach consumers who subscribe to high-speed-data services over the Internet. Those facilities are owned by phone companies and electric utilities, which themselves are cable competitors for Internet voice and data customers, setting the stage for possible misbehavior.

“As cable companies increasingly enter into areas outside of video programming, the competitive stakes between cable companies, telcos and electrics increases,” the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said late Monday.

The NCTA's comments came in a proceeding designed to determine the extent of broadband availability to the U.S. public.

The NCTA, citing research by Wall Street investment banker Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., projected that 99.8 million homes -- or 91% of all homes passed by cable -- will have access to cable-modem service by the end of 2004.

In its comments, the trade group warned that pole-attachment disputes could frustrate cable’s ability to provide affordable broadband access if operators become bogged down in disputes sponsored by business rivals.

“The commission should make clear that it intends to enforce its rules and that it will devote all necessary resources to minimize, if not completely eliminate, unreasonable utility practices of this sort,” the NCTA added.