CPUC set to reject cable's bid for wireless privileges

7 February 2017 by Steve Blum
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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.