Utilities: Cable should pay telecom rate for pole attachments

Cable operators and utility companies might string their wires on the same poles, but their relationship is far from friendly. A group of electric utilities that includes American Electric Power Service, Duke Energy, The Southern Co., and Xcel Energy, have now petitioned the FCC to rule that cable MSOs offering VoIP service should be required to pay the standard telecom rate to attach to utility poles versus the lower-cost cable rate.

"Electricity consumers, many of whom do not subscribe to VoIP services, must not be forced to subsidize cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable," said the utilities in a joint statement.

These utilities believe that the agency should issue a clarification on this issue prior to pursuing new issues for its broadband notice of inquiry or any new rules related to IP-based services and pole attachments. Not surprisingly, the cable industry said that the utility industry already gets enough money from cable operators under its current payment mechanism.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) said increased rates could slow broadband rollouts in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets. "[R]aising attachment rates for cable operators would raise prices and discourage broadband deployment and adoption, particularly in rural areas," the NCTA said.

This is not the first time the cable industry has come under fire over pole attachment payments. Last year, competitive telco tw telecom argued that telecom operators paid "two to three times" higher rates than cable operators for pole attachments. The CLEC filed comments with the FCC that said the regulator should enact rules to create a "single pole attachment rate to all service providers that compete in a market for broadband services."

For more:
- Multichannel News has this article
- here's the tw telecom release

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