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  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTENTS PAGE I. Introduction 1 II. AT&T Connecticut Must Be Expressly Required To Purchase, Install, And Maintain The Equipment And Technology Necessary To Complete Successful Interconnection With Community Access Providers Of A Type And Quality Equivalent To The Current Arrangement With The Incumbent CATV Operator, Including Live Programming 2 III. Conclusion 5 /home/pptfactory/temp/20100519094938/occ61.doc
  3. 3. STATE OF CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITY CONTROL RE: DPUC REVIEW OF AT&T : Docket No. 07-05-23 CONNECTICUT’S COMMUNITY : ACCESS FUNDING : OBLIGATIONS : December 11, 2007 THE OFFICE OF CONSUMER COUNSEL WRITTEN EXCEPTIONS I. Introduction Pursuant to the schedule established by Department of Public Utility Control (the “Department”), the Office of Consumer Counsel (the "OCC") hereby submits its Written Exceptions concerning the Department’s Draft Decision, dated November 27, 2007, in the above-captioned Docket involving The Southern New England Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T Connecticut (“AT&T Connecticut”), intended to examine and make determinations concerning AT&T Connecticut’s community access funding obligations pursuant to §§ 16-331a(k), as amended by Public Act 07-253, An Act Concerning Certified Competitive Video Service (the “Act”). While the OCC generally supports the Draft Decision, the OCC must comment regarding how the costs associated with interconnection with access providers are to be /home/pptfactory/temp/20100519094938/occ61.doc
  4. 4. borne. The Department continues to display great optimism that AT&T Connecticut will willingly cooperate in observing the dictates of Connecticut General Statutes (“C.G.S.”) § 16-331 et seq., those sections of C.G.S. Title 16 that provide for various public policy goals in the provision of cable services by cable operators such as AT&T Connecticut. Based on fresh history and the recent observations of a number of involved parties, many of which have participated in this Docket, the OCC cannot share the Department’s confidence that the equitable treatment ostensibly suggested or required by the Act relied upon by the Department will come to pass in the arena of community access funding by AT&T Connecticut. II. AT&T Connecticut Must Be Expressly Required To Purchase, Install, And Maintain The Equipment And Technology Necessary To Complete Successful Interconnection With Community Access Providers Of A Type And Quality Equivalent To The Current Arrangement With The Incumbent CATV Operator, Including Live Programming In this Draft Decision, the Department remarkably reaches no conclusion on the central issue of the Docket, specifically how the costs associated with interconnection with access providers are to be borne, relying instead on the simple statement that the “Act is silent” regarding how this vital public policy activity will be funded.1 The Draft Decision holds that, in the claimed absence of legislative guidance, the Department “anticipates that AT&T will work to address and resolve those concerns.”2 To the contrary, the OCC would note that the Draft Decision itself recognizes that the equality among all cable operators is at the heart of the Act and thus is not silent as to imposition of expenses on one cable operator while excusing another. The Draft 1 Draft Decision at 7-8. 2 Id. 2
  5. 5. Decision declares: The Act makes clear that AT&T is subject to community access funding requirements at a level set by the Department pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-331a(k). All respondents, including AT&T, support community access funding requirements set at a level matching that imposed upon the incumbents, and the Department finds no reason to disagree. Regulatory parity is an implicit goal of the Act, and commensurate funding requirements offer a simple, fair, and measurable means of achieving that goal.3 In numerous conversations initiated by a number of community access providers, some of which filed comments in this Docket, it is apparent, at least to the OCC if not the Department, that costs such as those associated with the last 200' of interconnection, equipment necessary to modify traditional CATV-compatible programming to AT&T's IPTV format, and other potential recurring and non-recurring costs, have been the subject of acrimonious discussions between AT&T Connecticut, municipalities, and others involved in community access across the state. In short, it is generally reported that AT&T Connecticut has expressly indicated that it expects all local programmers interested in having video materials carried by the cable services provided by AT&T Connecticut to invest several thousands of dollars to purchase various specialized infrastructure unique to the IPTV network system utilized by AT&T Connecticut. This is hardly the equitable market claimed to be the goal of the Act and relied upon by the Draft Decision: incumbent cable operators, intended to be on a par legally and in terms of effect under the terms of the Act, have made their technology (e.g., hardware, including modulators and wiring) and technical assistance available to the community access stations over decades in this state at no cost to the local programmers. 3 Id. at 7. 3
  6. 6. Thus, to properly balance the market, the OCC requests that the Draft Decision be modified to expressly order that AT&T Connecticut be responsible for purchasing, installing and maintaining the equipment and technology necessary to complete successful interconnection with community access providers of a type and quality equivalent to the extant arrangement with the incumbent CATV operator, including live programming. It is inherently unfair to place the responsibility on the local access station to meet the costs of AT&T Connecticut’s IPTV transmission requirements, costs which remain unknown and may exceed the budgets of some smaller access providers. The effect will be not only to dampen the reach of community access by reducing or eliminating the ability of small providers to access AT&T Connecticut’s network and customers, but will create an inequitable market for cable services with excess expenses imposed on other cable operators fully complying with existing cable statutes, C.G.S. § 16-331 et seq. Specifically, while interconnection of facilities with all cable operators providing cable services in each territory is clearly vital to realizing long-standing public policy cable services goals, it is equally vital that AT&T Connecticut purchase, install and maintain the required interconnection equipment for community access. Not only will this place AT&T Connecticut’s commitment to provisioning of community access services on a par with that made by incumbent cable operators, it will address the unique technology currently utilized by AT&T Connecticut to provide cable services. Since the IPTV technology is not broadly utilized in this or any other state, requiring local providers to expend thousands of dollars to purchase and maintain such equipment could well be a formula for disaster should AT&T Connecticut once again relinquish its right to provide cable services in this state. 4
  7. 7. AT&T Connecticut suggested in its response to question no. 26 from the Department it wished for a proprietary designation for a report to filed identifying the community access providers receiving funding from the Company as well as the amount of such funding.4 The OCC simply wants to reiterate that the Draft Decision properly holds that with respect to the funding amount and designated community access providers to be funded, those entities and funding amounts are a matter of public record and thus there will be no proprietary protection accorded those reports.5 Lastly, some community access providers have suggested that the Department should impose a stipend to accommodate certain start-up costs related to the initial interconnection arrangements with AT&T Connecticut’s IPTV network. The OCC believes that this is a important addition to the Draft Decision since it can only impose minor startup expenses that should be recognized by AT&T Connecticut as part of becoming involved with the state’s communities to which it intends to provide cable services. III. Conclusion It is plain that the express language and public policy goals of the Act require that AT&T Connecticut must interconnect its facilities with incumbent CATV operators and with community access providers, a cooperative act that AT&T Connecticut must now finally embrace. The Draft Decision, again with the optimism the Department has shown now for several years regarding AT&T Connecticut’s cooperative spirit, “encourages” all cable operators providing cable services in the state, obviously 4 Id. at 4. 5 Id. at 8, citing Docket No. 07-01-07, DPUC Annual Community Access Support Review, Decision, May 16, 2007, and the underlying franchise renewal cases listed therein. 5
  8. 8. including AT&T Connecticut, to “work collaboratively” generally and “to achieve interconnection terms that do not unreasonably burden one provider or the other.”6 The OCC fully supports the Department's expectation that such interconnection is technically feasible and necessary; any attempts to thwart or delay interconnection, or unreasonably withhold programming from one provider or another, will not be permitted.7 Thus, while the OCC urges the Department to expressly order the necessary elements of cooperation required by the Act, it additionally encourages all the parties involved with the provision of cable services throughout Connecticut to regard public policy goals and consumer welfare as being the primary objective of their activities. Respectfully submitted, MARY J. HEALEY CONSUMER COUNSEL By: ________________________ William L. Vallée Jr. Principal Attorney I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been mailed, electronically filed, and/or hand-delivered to all known parties and intervenors of record this December 11, 2007. 6 Draft Decision at 8. 7 Id. 6
  9. 9. ________________________________ William L. Vallée Jr. Commissioner of the Superior Court 7