FCC, cable biz get wires crossed

Competitors need alternative access points

Less than a month after FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin tried to convince the cable TV industry he has not been “picking” on them, the commission released a ruling May 31 that looks a lot like, well, nitpicking, at least.

To promote video delivery competition, the FCC said cablers must provide competitors with alternative points of access to existing wires in multi-unit dwellings when the wires are behind sheetrock.

The cable biz had agreed to provide alternative access when wires were behind brick or metal but had hoped to be exempt when wires were just behind sheetrock — comparatively easy to bust through and repair.

Said the FCC: Nope, do it for sheetrock, too.

The agency issued the same ruling once before; the industry challenged it, and a court ordered the FCC to withdraw the ruling and review it.

Seemed like a perfect opportunity to make good on Martin’s promise to give the industry “fair hearing” on all issues. But then came the new ruling.

Do cablers think he was unfair?

“We support a competitive marketplace, and the current rules already allow that competition to thrive with no impediments,” the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. said. “We will have to review the order closely before determining next steps.”

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