SBC’s Turn for Texas Franchise

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SBC Communications Inc. has filed for a state franchise in Texas to become a video-service provider, designating 21 communities in and around San Antonio where it would like to deliver service.

The new state franchising format allows potential competitors to file as either cable- or video-services providers.

SBC has always asserted that its planned Internet-protocol-delivered video product, branded Project Lightspeed, is not a cable service under federal definitions and, therefore, does not need a cable franchise. But in Texas, it is allowed to file for authority as a video-service provider.

SBC's targeted service territory, identified in the Oct. 10 filing, includes San Antonio and regional neighbors Alamo Heights, Balcones Heights, China Grove, Cibolo, Converse, Garden Ridge, Hill Country Village, Hollywood Park, Kirby, Leon Valley, Live Oak, Olmos Park, Schertz, Selma, Shavano Park, Terrell Hills, Timberwood Park, Windcrest and Universal City.

Service in those areas will be limited to commercial and technical feasibility and/or access to property, according to the filing.

The Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association has sued to block the law enabling state franchising, SB5, alleging that the new policy allows telephone competitors to serve only the most economically viable areas, among other issues.

The Texas law mandates that the state Public Utility Commission issue a franchise in 17 working days. When SBC’s is issued Nov. 2, San Antonio and some of its suburbs will have a choice of three video companies: Time Warner Cable, Grande Communications Inc. (which has also filed for state authority) and SBC. Those are in addition to direct-broadcast satellite providers DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network.

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