In the News

Published July 1, 2005

Texas Won’t Exempt Telco Switched Video from Local Fees

The Texas legislature in late May rejected a measure that would have allowed telephone companies in the state to offer switched video services without seeking franchise approval from local governments.

Led by Time Warner Cable, cable companies–which historically have been required to pay local franchise fees and meet coverage requirements–lobbied heavily against the bill, saying it would allow phone companies to cherry-pick customers with larger amounts of disposable income. Phone companies countered that the requirement to seek approval in every locality would raise costs, slow deployment, and inhibit the spread of competition in video services.

Time Warner Accelerates its Own Switched Video Rollout

Taking a page from the telephone companies’ book, Time Warner Cable says it will begin incorporating switched broadcast video into its cable systems nationwide in 2006.

Telephone companies are adopting switched video because it is more suitable for DSL, which provides less aggregate bandwidth than conventional cable TV platforms. Time Warner says that by moving some of its digital TV channels to switched video, it can free up more bandwidth for HDTV, video-on-demand, and future bandwidth-rich applications.

Time Warner’s announcement came one day after the Texas legislature rejected a measure that would have allowed telephone companies to deploy similar video technology in Time Warner markets without seeking local franchise approval (see story above).

Lafayette FTTP Get Bond Commission Approval

The Louisiana State Bond Commission has approved the issue of up to $135 million in revenue bonds to fund a municipal fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) system in Lafayette, pending the outcome of a July 16 referendum in the central Louisiana city of 110,000.

If approved, the project will be the country’s most expensive municipal FTTP deployment to date. It is being watched closely by both sides in the municipal broadband debate.

Quarter Sees Strong FTTP Growth

The number of homes passed by fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) systems reached 1.6 million in April 2005, an eightfold increase since March 2004, according to the research firm Render Vanderslice and Associates, as reported by Telephony magazine on May 10, 2005.

Nearly 650,000 homes were added between September 2004 and April 2005, the firm found. Overall, the number of communities–towns as well as new developments and subdivisions–that receive FTTP service has grown 83 percent since October 2004.

Wireless 911 Gets Low Marks

Even as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has demanded that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers link to 911 emergency systems this summer, tests of wireless 911 systems in several cities still yield less-than-acceptable results, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FCC mandated wireless 911 service 10 years ago.

Tests in Chicago and New York City and its suburbs still show wireless calls lack the necessary latitude and longitude information to pinpoint the location of the caller. Verizon Wireless has reported that its own tests in New York City fell short of FCC requirements. Wireless companies and public safety agencies at the FCC concede that in cities, terrain, buildings, and radio interference can cause location problems. In rural areas, the distance between wireless transmission towers affects precise triangulation.

While VoIP providers endorse calls for 911 connectivity, some have said the FCC’s demand for compliance in 120 days is unreasonable given the current state of technology. While committed to developing a solution, many experts have pointed to the technical problems wireless 911 continues to have as indicative of the challenge ahead.

Steven Titch ([email protected]) is senior fellow for IT and telecom policy at The Heartland Institute.