Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Public utility districts can provide cable TV service, California Court of Appeal rules

In a case of first impression in California, a panel of the California Court of Appeal Third District ruled that the Public Utilities Code permits public utility districts to provide cable television services. The three-judge panel based its opinion on section 16461 of the statute that allows PUDs to "acquire, construct, own, operate, control, or use, within or without or partly within and partly without the district, works for supplying its inhabitants with light, water, power, heat, transportation, telephone service, or other means of communication, or means for the disposition of garbage, sewage, or refuse matter, and may do all things necessary or convenient to the full exercise of the powers granted in this article."

The ruling is significant because it provides solid legal authority for California utility districts to partner with private companies to build open access telecommunications networks over the objections of existing cable providers and telcos who don't want new competitors offering superior broadband services. These networks can provide much needed alternatives to bringing broadband and other advanced digital telecommunications services to areas existing providers choose not to provide and introduce competition that can benefit consumers.

The ruling clears the way for Roseville, California-based SureWest Communications to explore a public/private partership with the Truckee Donner Public Utility District to install a fiber optic-based cable system in the district's jurisdiction, The Sierra Sun reports.

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