Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Connecticut AG wants to force AT&T to serve entire state with IPTV

Now here's a turnabout. Over the past two years, AT&T has lobbied states for laws that allow them to go around local governments and get statewide "video franchises." Looking out for their constituents, most local governments (unlike El Dorado County, California) naturally want advanced broadband telecommunications services including video available for all of their residents. But Ma Bell and other telcos -- as well as the cable companies -- instead want to pick and choose winners and losers when it comes to determining who will get service.

Connecticut isn't one of the two dozen or so states that put a statewide franchise law on the books. Nevertheless State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal worries that AT&T will work with the locals to leave much of the state on the wrong side of the digital divide and has petitioned the state's Department of Public Utility Control urging it to require Ma Bell to get a statewide franchise.

"Because AT&T serves virtually the entire state, the company needs to apply for a statewide license requiring it to eventually provide IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) service to all households, Blumenthal said in a press release. AT&T, which already offers IPTV in a few communities, had wanted to provide the service without state regulation and only in selected areas, according to Blumenthal's office.

Don't let the references to cable or video franchises and IPTV confuse the main issue. This issue isn't about TV or video competition. It's all about broadband buildout and closing the widespread digital divide.

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