Tag Archives: cable lobby

CPUC set to reject cable’s bid for wireless privileges

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Decision on the way.

Update: the CPUC unanimously approved the draft decision at its 9 February 2017 meeting.

It’s a bit softer than the total smack down that was originally floated, but the latest draft of a decision that’ll go in front of the California Public Utilities Commission still says that cable companies can’t hang wireless equipment on utility poles with the same carefree abandon as mobile carriers. The reasoning is that the laws that grant cable companies the special privilege to use utility poles and such without having to meet the same standards of service or conduct as telephone companies specifically mention wires, not wireless, and that “if the legislature had intended to provide CATV corporations with a right to attach wireless facilities to utility poles – either by statute or by commission regulations – the legislature would have done so”.

The lobbying front used by Comcast, Charter and other cable companies in Sacramento – the California Cable and Telecommunications Association (CCTA) – asked the CPUC for the same pole access rights given to mobile carriers and similarly licensed companies last year. After chewing on it for a few months, commission president Michael Picker posted a proposed decision in January definitively rejecting the request and effectively saying don’t bother asking again. It drew a hard line between “‘cable’ television service”, which generally involves television and a cable of some kind (albeit with other offerings, such as broadband, allowed alongside), and pure telecoms services that lack video or a wire or both, such as wireless Internet, mobile phone and fiber back haul services.

In the sort of response you might expect to get from someone who just realised that their legal maneuver boomeranged, leaving them arguably worse off than before, CCTA asked to withdraw its request and cancel the whole proceeding.

The revised decision – posted yesterday – gives CCTA the ability to refile its request “without prejudice” and tightens up some of the language so that the hole it dug for itself isn’t quite as deep. But it leaves the essentials intact. It’s scheduled for a commission vote on Thursday.

Cable’s political privileges have practical limits, says CPUC draft

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Some lobbyists don’t let go of old stereotypes.

Cable companies can’t have wireless privileges because they’re cable and not wireless companies. That’s the gist of a proposed decision that’s in front of the California Public Utilities Commission, and the cable industry’s hired gun lobbyists don’t like it.

Last year, the CPUC changed the rules for attaching telecoms equipment to utility poles and allowed mobile carriers and similarly licensed companies to install wireless gear on utility poles, subject to new cost sharing rules and safety regulations. That decision did not apply to cable or wireline telephone companies that might want to hang radios on poles, but it did invite them to ask for that permission so it could be taken up later.

The California Cable and Telecommunications Association (CCTA) – the organisation that grooms Sacramento lawmakers for cable industry loving – made that request last July. The initial answer that came back from CPUC president Michael Picker was no. His proposed decision noted that cable television corporations “are not public utilities” as defined by California law, and…

[The] statutory definition of “cable television corporation” is narrowly confined to entities that use “cable” facilities to transmit television programs. Conspicuously absent from this definition is any mention of wireless facilities…

[The] statutory definition of [cable television] corporations’ “pole attachments” is limited to a “wire communication system.” Significantly, this definition does not mention a wireless communication system or wireless facilities…

We conclude that the previously cited provisions of the California Public Utilities Code do not provide CATV corporations with a right to attach wireless facilities to utility poles. We believe it is dispositive that the Legislature included the terms “cable” and “wire” in the previously cited statutes, but omitted the term “wireless.” If the Legislature had intended to provide CATV corporations with a right to attach wireless facilities to utility poles – either by statute or by Commission regulations – the Legislature would have done so.

Picker’s draft was published earlier this month, with the expectation that it would be voted on at the commission’s first meeting in February. In the normal course of events, CCTA would have filed a reply and attempted to rebut those arguments. But the cable industry doesn’t like the idea of being treated as a normal public utility rent-seeking business. No telling where that might lead. So instead, CCTA said never mind and asked that the CPUC just sorta forget it, because, among other things…

The Proposed Decision as drafted could be read to suggest that cable television providers’ use of even the wired facilities they install may be limited to providing cable (i.e., video) service and not, for example broadband services and/or that they have no rights to install wireless pole attachment even in furtherance of their provision of cable television services.

Just so. Cable companies, with hired guns and deep pockets full of campaign cash, have carved out a comfortable, unregulated niche in California public policy that allows them to offer broadband services as if they were telephone companies, but without having to meet the same standards of conduct and service. It’s an unearned privilege that was gained through disingenuous grandfathering of ancient and outdated regulations that date back to the days when suburbanites were watching Leave it to Beaver in black and white.

The CPUC should ignore the lobbyists and finalise the decision.

California cable lobby to CPUC: we’re in charge, not you

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Lobbyists for the California cable industry want to rewrite broadband subsidy rules to give cable companies the right to say yea or nay to proposed infrastructure upgrade projects, instead of the California Public Utilities Commission.

That’s the gist of comments filed yesterday by the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, (CCTA) regarding new rules for the CASF broadband infrastructure subsidy program

In order for the Commission to provide for a true right of first refusal specific to a project, the rules would necessarily provide the opportunity to the existing provider to demonstrate that it will, within a reasonable timeframe, upgrade existing service for a project area for which a grant has been sought.

What they’re referring to is a law passed last year that, among other things, gave independent Internet service providers the ability to apply for grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund…

…after any existing facilities-based provider has an opportunity to demonstrate to the commission that it will, within a reasonable timeframe, upgrade existing service.

This provision has been characterised by many, including me, as a right of first refusal. As others have pointed out (h/t to Jim Warner at UCSC), it’s at best a convenient shorthand description and not a strict application of legal terminology. In reality, it gives existing providers the right to make the first proposal to upgrade their facilities in an underserved area.

The CCTA’s comments continue on for several pages in the same vein, claiming that what the California legislature has enacted and the CPUC has proposed doesn’t really say what it says, instead offering several pages of an alternative reality that suits the corporate needs of cable companies, but doesn’t do much for the millions of Californians they hold captive with ageing broadband infrastructure.