Washington -- RCN Corp., the scrappy cable overbuilder and
local-phone reseller in East Coast cities and Northern California, lost another procedural
battle with Time Warner Cable at the Federal Communications Commission.
RCN has for months denied Time Warner access to its
business plans in connection with its construction of an open-video system in the five
boroughs of New York City.
Time Warner, which shares cable dominance of the city with
Cablevision Systems Corp., is considering reserving channels on RCN's OVS, but only
in communities where Time Warner's wires do not cross with RCN's -- a
restriction imposed by the FCC.
Last week, the FCC held, for the second time in less than a
year, that RCN violated agency rules by withholding build-out schedules, carriage rates
and technical interface specifications that a would-be programmer like Time Warner would
need in order to evaluate whether to seek capacity on its OVS.
The FCC, in a decision by Cable Services Bureau chief
Deborah Lathen, gave RCN five days to release the data and ordered Time Warner to protect
the confidentiality of RCN's information.
Lathen's order, however, said RCN was not required to
surrender additional information sought by Time Warner. This included: a map showing fiber
paths, a specific construction schedule, a list of programmers and a list of communities
including potential OVS subscribers.
Arthur Harding, a Washington, D.C., cable attorney for Time
Warner, said the ruling was important for the MSO because it put the FCC on record once
again that a cable operator "is eligible to be an [OVS programmer] in any community
where it is not the cable franchisee."
Scott Burnside, RCN's vice president of regulatory and
governmental affairs, said the company would appeal the ruling to the five FCC
commissioners. The commissioners are already reviewing a similar appeal after the CSB
ruled in favor of Time Warner last May in another information-sharing dispute in Boston.
The FCC, Burnside said, was forcing RCN to turn over
commercially sensitive information to Time Warner, which he called RCN's
Burnside said he doubted that Time Warner really needed the
information for itself because the MSO was unlikely to reserve channels on an RCN OVS that
would compete head-to-head with Cablevision in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
He added that Time Warner, even after winning the Boston
dispute, has not applied to reserve channels on RCN's Boston-area OVS properties.
Harding said Time Warner did not move in Boston because RCN
has refused to hand over a rate card to reserve channel capacity while the case is on
appeal at the FCC.
"Time Warner wants to make an informed business
decision. The biggest issue here is: What does it cost?" Harding said.