SNET-Plant Bill Stalls in Conn.

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Citing claims of ethics irregularities, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell declined to sign into law a bill that would have stymied attempts by a competitor to lease unused cable-TV plant owned by SBC Communications Inc.

The competitor, Gemini Networks CT Inc., has been working with the state’s Department of Public Utility Control to compel SBC to lease its former Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. fiber plant. But a telephone-pricing-decontrol bill passed June 7 included a late amendment that banned the unbundling of SBC’s fiber-coaxial plant unless the Federal Communications Commission orders it.

The amendment also gave the DPUC authority to broker a memorandum of understanding, presumably relating to sale terms for the unused portion of the plant. Before the bill was passed, SBC offered to sell the plant to Gemini, but that company was afforded less than 48 hours to vet the deal, according to the parties.

After the bill was passed, Gemini’s attorneys made a written complaint to Rell’s office, asserting that a DPUC commissioner who has been acting on Gemini’s docket to compel the lease from SBC also participated in the legislative process. The attorneys inferred that the commissioner’s conduct resulted in amendments detrimental to Gemini.

Rell, in her explanatory letter to the Senate, said she forwarded the complaint to the State Ethics Commission, which replied that it had no jurisdiction. It was then sent to the Judicial Review Council, which oversees the actions of judges and magistrates. The JRC hasn’t completed its consideration of the matter.

Given the “unresolved questions” about the bill, Rell wrote that she preferred to veto the bill by returning it unsigned. She offered the state’s General Assembly the opportunity to take it up again next session.

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