Monday, January 31, 2005

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

I just love it when the cable ops sing the praises of local cable franchising. Twice in recent weeks, the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has come to the defense of municipalities and the issue of franchising. NCTA is lining up with cities as Verizon attempts an end-run around local franchising in Virginia and yet again as SBC tries the same in Texas (and elsewhere). They’re also accusing SBC of planning to redline poor neighborhoods! Something we all know the cable ops would never, ever do.

"Cable operators must be vigilant about plans by phone companies to circumvent the local franchising process to gain an unfair competitive advantage by redlining or any other means," says outgoing NCTA president Robert Sachs.

With that, Sachs proves that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Never you mind the cable ops are the hands down champions when it comes to circumvention of the franchising process (San Jose, need I say more?), it’s just good to have them in the correct camp for once.

SBC counters that cable ops are unfairly competing in their playing field of phone delivery and they too are quite correct. Throw in that cable modem free-ride for good measure and the fur starts to fly.

While these Titans of Telecom wrestle it out, it would be a mistake to get the popcorn ready and just sit back to watch the show. Ultimately these industries could easily figure out a way to cut a back room deal and cities would once again become their primary targets of opportunity.

Which leads us to what is broken about the Telecom Act. It’s weighed too heavily in favor of services and the definition of services and weighed too lightly on occupation of physical space in the Public Rights of Way. And it won’t be long before Broadband over Power Lines throws salt into these gaping wounds.

Rumor has it that cities are looking at definitions which will maintain traditional control over their Rights of Way and encompass all entrants and incumbents regardless of their delivery system. We can only hope that Congress can get their beanie little brains around why that is so important. In the meantime, there’s certainly a good amount of fun and satisfaction in watching these guys go at each other’s throats.

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