Saturday, May 12, 2007

Colorado video franchise fight reveals true goal of provider "competition," Comcast's hypocrisy

Here's an interesting story from the Rocky Mountain News that illustrates what the real competition between cable companies and telcos is all about. It's not about which can capture the most customers in a given market -- the traditional measure of market competition -- but rather who can force the other guy to provide service to everyone in a given local government jurisdiction.

Cable provider Comcast insists Denver-based telco Qwest be required to provide broadband video service to everyone in the Colorado municipalities it wants to serve, charging Qwest will leave some neighborhoods unserved if local governments don't require it to do so in exchange for granting Qwest a video franchise. (Note however, hypocritical Comcast does exactly what it accuses Qwest of doing, including in my own El Dorado County, California ZIP code where Comcast serves some neighborhoods but refuses to serve others).

If Colorado local governments force Qwest to serve their entire jurisdictions, the Rocky Mountain News reports Qwest may counter by invoking a recently promulgated Federal Communications Commission rule that Qwest sought prohibiting local governments from imposing "unreasonable" build out requirements on telephone companies seeking franchises to offer enhanced broadband-based video services. The rule also requires local governments to make a decision on a video franchise application within 90 days.


If Qwest presses ahead with this reported effort to accelerate local government video franchise applications, it will set the stage for litigation over the meaning of what constitutes an "unreasonable" build out requirement under the FCC rule. Local governments have already gone to federal court to challenge the rule, contending the FCC overstepped its authority.


Qwest's initiative also marks a quick reversal of a strategy announced earlier this month by CEO Richard Notebaert, who told Bloomberg Qwest planned to hold off offering video over phone lines, concentrating instead on accelerating residential broadband Internet access.

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