Washington -- Confrontational cable overbuilder RCN Corp.
got its hand slapped last week for refusing to provide Time Warner Cable with various
information about its Boston-area open-video system.
The Federal Communications Commission ruled that Time
Warner was entitled to know the communities that RCN is serving and the communities that
it is projected to serve in a staged activation. The agency based its decision on the
MSO's complaint, which was filed last fall against RCN and its utility-company
RCN and utility partner BeCoCom, a division of Boston
Edison, have FCC authority to provide OVS service in the city of Boston and 47 other
Massachusetts communities, 12 of which are Time Warner franchise areas.
RCN has adopted an in-your-face approach to competition
with cable, including bus-stop posters that show the visage of Soviet Union founder V.I.
Lenin (representing the cable industry), beside the words: "No Empire Lasts Forever
-- Especially One that Keeps You Waiting Five Hours for a Repairman."
The FCC, in an action by the Cable Services Bureau, gave
RCN-BeCoCom five days to furnish the rollout information, which the agency ruled was not
However, the FCC declined to order RCN-BeCoCom to disclose
maps showing fiber paths and specific construction schedules. And the commission turned
back Time Warner's request for potential subscriber information from RCN-BeCoCom.
The FCC said Time Warner was entitled to know
RCN-BeCoCom's service areas because Time Warner was a "prospective
program-provider" in several OVS communities. OVS operators must provide channel
space -- in some cases, up to two-thirds of their activated plant -- to unaffiliated
RCN-BeCoCom failed to persuade the FCC that Time Warner was
ineligible under FCC rules to reserve OVS channels because it was a competing in-region
The commission ruled that Time Warner is eligible to seek
OVS carriage in those 36 communities that do not coincide with its cable franchise areas.
Arthur Harding, Time Warner's attorney with law firm
Fleischman and Walsh, based here, said the FCC order established that "cable
operators are entitled to become video-program providers in any community where they are
not the franchised operator."
The FCC rejected RCN-BeCoCom's legal interpretation of
the OVS rules that if a cable operator has a franchise in one portion of an OVS territory,
it is barred from OVS carriage anywhere in the territory.
The FCC also rejected Time Warner's request for the
agency to revoke RCN-BeCoCom's OVS certification.
Time Warner alleged that RCN-BeCoCom reneged on its promise
to provide a 330-channel platform when the company told officials from the town of
Sudbury, Mass., that the OVS platform would have just 110 channels that were effectively
unavailable to unaffiliated programmers.
RCN spokesman Jim Maiella declined to comment, saying that
the company had to review the decision.