A quartet of electric utility companies have asked the FCC for a declaratory ruling that cable operators who provide VoIP service should pay for attaching to utility poles at the telecom rate rather than the cable rate, which is less.
The companies asked the FCC to rule that the telecommunications rate charged for attachments by traditional phone service should apply to cable systems providing interconnected VoIP service as well. "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, they argue."
Filing the petition were American Electric Power Service Corp., Duke Energy Corp., Southern Company, and Xcel Energy.
They argue the FCC should make that "clarification" before it takes up any related issues in its broadband notice of inquiry or proposed rulemakings on IP services and pole attachments.
The cable industry has argued that utility companies are well compensated by cable's current payment formula, which has been upheld by the FCC, the Supreme Court (FCC v. Florida Power), and that the FCC has correctly applied the formula to attachments for cable modem service. In fact, the cable industry has argued for lowering the rate for everyone to that paid by cable, with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association saying that "adopting a broadband attachment rate for all similarly situated broadband providers that is based on the cable rate formula is the surest way to promote continued deployment and investment in rural areas."
By contrast, says NCTA: "[R]aising attachment rates for cable operators would raise prices and discourage broadband deployment and adoption, particularly in rural areas."