AT&T Video Plans Rubber Stamped by CPUC

AT&T today was richly rewarded for the thousands of dollars it has poured into the Governor’s campaign coffers with virtually unfettered access to California’s lucrative cable market.

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

AT&T today was richly rewarded for the thousands of dollars it has poured into the Governor’s campaign coffers with virtually unfettered access to California’s lucrative cable market. The Utility Reform Network and other consumer advocacy organizations had urged the California Public Utilities Commission to adopt at least rudimentary consumer protections in order to prevent discrimination and give consumers a voice in this emerging market. But the CPUC’s decision, penned by Schwarzenegger appointee Rachelle Chong, shut consumers out.

Although the legislative intent of last year’s Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act was to both promote competition and protect consumers from service discrimination, the CPUC’s decision will make it almost impossible for consumers to challenge franchise applications by the dominant phone companies.

"The Commission appears to be enthusiastic about turning itself into a rubber stamp," said TURN executive director Bob Finkelstein. "Rather than provide any meaningful oversight to make sure the new cable market serves the public better than the old one, the CPUC has given away the store."

TURN and other consumer advocates had urged the Commission to:

  • Prevent racial and economic discrimination by insuring that new services are equally available in all communities.
  • Stop AT&T from subsidizing fancy new video services through higher rates for basic phone service.
  • Give consumers and local governments opportunities to protest video franchise applications.

Finkelstein said TURN would consider an appeal of the decision. "AT&T is almost always able to purchase the assent of regulators, legislators and other politicians. We can only hope the courts have retained some semblance of independence from the campaign-finance approach to lawmaking."