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State Laws/Franchising

Rutledge: Hold Telcos to Cable Laws

3/16/2005 9:59 AM Eastern

Phone companies that plan to offer Internet-protocol video should comply with existing cable laws until Congress adopts new ground rules for all companies intending to market IP video, Cablevision Systems Corp. chief operating officer Thomas Rutledge told a House subcommittee Wednesday.

Rutledge said IP video is a nascent service not really ready for congressional classification. But to the extent that Congress examines IP video and its role in the broader market, lawmakers had many issues to consider.

“While these issues are not ripe for legislative action, it would be appropriate for Congress to examine how the emergence of IP video may affect the whole media industry, including such matters as nondiscriminatory deployment; public, educational and government access; compensation to municipalities for use of public rights of way; broadcaster and sports programming; localism; copyright; syndication; and the appropriate role of state and local government,” he added.

Rutledge said IP regulations should apply not just to phone companies. “Any recommendations emerging from this review should be applicable to all multichannel-video-programming providers,” he added.

SBC Communications Inc. is rolling out IP video this year. The company claimed that it won’t need cable franchises because IP video is not a cable service.

Rutledge indicated that phone companies should not be allowed to engage in self-deregulation because they happen to call their video services IP video.

“All companies that propose to provide cable service, including telephone companies, must comply with existing federal, state and local laws, including securing cable franchises prior to constructing and not redlining neighborhoods,” he added.

Rutledge appeared before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet mainly to discuss the company’s voice-over-Internet-protocol service. Since late 2003, the MSO has signed up 350,000 subscribers and is adding 1,000 more each day. It charges $34.95 per month for unlimited local and long-distance calling.

“Unlike VoIP, IP-video services remain largely in the conceptual stage, with many economic and technical questions yet unanswered,” Rutledge said.

September