Wednesday, August 09, 2006

For the Record....

Just for the record...

During the recent battle in the Louisiana legislature over BellSouth's state-wide cable franchising bill there were folks who made the claim that the municipalities were being disingenuous--even dishonest--when they said that language in the bill that would have excluded "information services" from the calculations used to determine franchise fees could result in no franchise fees being paid at all. Lafayette Pro Fiber insisted the danger was real; both on these pages (example) and through meetings with legislators and local officials.

Eventually, under heavy pressure from the municipalities and facing the threat of a vocal outcry on the floor of the senate--which was realized-- (the committees responsible for oversight were predictably supine) the bill was heavily amended to secure, so far as is possible, a definition of the fees basis that included IPTV. All the while BellSouth's representatives and their lawyers played dumb about the implications of the use of the term "information service" and the way the FCC uses the term to exclude all local oversight for data services.

The threat was real.

And it's now revealed that our federal legislators are aware of the issue. (They probably have knowledgeable staff.) From a recent article in the National Journal:

The FCC debate over Internet-enabled services began in 2004, as a way to deregulate services that allow phone calls over a computer.

But the proceeding has become the primary vehicle for AT&T to argue that its video service is not a cable service.

Verizon Communications and other telecom companies do not agree with AT&T's efforts, and neither does House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas.

"Our friends at AT&T have sent this silly letter saying they're not a cable service, which they shouldn't have done," Barton said during an April subcommittee vote on the telecom bill. He called AT&T's argument "stupido."

Added Barton, "We explicitly say they're a cable service."

AT&T/BS tried to pull a fast one on the state--one that they are still trying to pull on the Federal level. The Federal legislators are on to them. But AT&T still plans to try and convince the FCC that their cable TV service is actually something else--and that they shouldn't have to pay any attention to those pesky municipalities that actually own the property they want to use.

Madame Blanco did us good in vetoing that bill. And the Federals may have learned a thing from the fight here.

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