AT&T Hoped Magistrate Would Vacate Decision Defining It As A Cable Service

Telco Hoped Magistrate Would Vacate Decision Defining It As A Cable Service

By Linda Haugsted — Multichannel News, 7/10/2008 6:01:00 PM

AT&T failed to convince a federal judge in Connecticut to vacate a legal precedent declaring that U-verse TV is a cable service. 

The telecommunications company petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut to declare as moot that court’s July 26, 2007, ruling striking down a finding by the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control from 2006.

Those regulators, in an action unique among state utility boards, proactively examined the Internet-delivered U-verse TV service. They came to the controversial conclusion that U-verse, because it delivers video in bits and bytes via the Internet and not in a continuous stream, does not meet the definition of a cable service.

AT&T has consistently argued that U-verse is not a cable service and should not be regulated as such. But Judge Janet Bond Arterton ruled that U-verse does meet the legal definition of a cable service.

The most recent AT&T motion asked the judge to amend her final judgment, arguing that the whole dispute became moot in October of last year when the Connecticut legislature approved its state franchising bill. The new legislation created video franchise regulation. That regulation did not rely on a legally defining U-verse in order to for AT&T to qualify to deliver video in the state.

AT&T has asked that the Federal Communications Commission or a court rule that U-verse is not a cable service, per the federal Cable Act, requiring franchises. It has yet to get that ruling.

But the court, in a ruling issued July 10, decided that while the state franchising law resolved the issue of franchising, there are “live issues” that will remain until the FCC or a court decides that elements of the Cable Act do or don’t apply to AT&T’s video service.

Therefore, Judge Arterton refused to amend her previous rulings.

Commenting on the court’s latest ruling, Paul Cianelli, president of the New England Cable Television Association, said: “In light of the United States District Court’s recent ruling against it, AT&T’s claim that its U-verse service is not cable television is taking on an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality. For the sake of consumers and communities who are missing out on the protections and benefits normally required of cable companies, we hope AT&T will accept reality, compete on a level playing field and contribute its fair share to Connecticut’s citizens.”