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CONN - Draft ruling says AT$T can offer cable over phone lines

By saveaccess
Created 05/08/2006 - 7:19am

from News Day [1]

Draft ruling says AT&T can offer cable over phone lines
May 6, 2006, 12:32 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. -- A draft ruling from the state Department of Public Utility Control would allow AT&T to offer television service over phone lines.

According to the ruling, AT&T uses different network technology than cable companies and therefore does not need to follow the same franchise regulations, such as offering public-access programming.

The ruling still needs approval from the five-member DPUC board, which is scheduled to meet June 7.

AT&T said it wants to bring the service to some parts of the state by year end. Experts say a new system to compete against cable could mean lower prices.

"This is a great day for consumer choice," AT&T vice president Ramona Carlow said in a statement. "We applaud the DPUC for putting the interests of consumers first and for recognizing that our state's decades-old cable television laws don't apply to new cutting-edge services and shouldn't be used to restrict consumer choice."

But consumer advocates say customers will be hurt if franchise regulations are not applied to AT&T. In addition to requiring public-access channels, the rules force cable companies to collect gross receipts taxes and make cable available to all neighborhoods regardless of income level.

"The DPUCs preliminary decision denies Connecticut residents important consumer protections and guaranteed access to this new and exciting technology," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

DPUC Vice Chairman Jack Goldberg said in a statement attached to the ruling that AT&T's planned video service is much like Internet phone service, which is not regulated.

"There is no difference between bytes traveling over the Internet to become video or to become voice," Goldberg said. "A byte is a byte is a byte."

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