Federal District Court Declares AT&T U-Verse to be Cable Service and Cable System
On July 26, 2007, the United States District Court in Connecticut rejected the claim of AT&T and the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) that AT&T’s “U-verse” system was not a cable system delivering cable services. Office of Consumer Counsel and New England Cable and Telecommunications Association v. Southern New England Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T Connecticut, Inc. and Department of Public Utility Control of the State of Connecticut, Case No. 3:06cv1106 (JBA) (D. Conn., July 26, 2007).
AT&T has sought to treat its Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) system as exempt from traditional cable franchising, based upon the underlying technological architecture. Reversing last years’ Connecticut DPUC ruling that exempted AT&T as not “cable,” the court ruled that AT&T had structured its offering to include prescheduled “linear” channels (e.g., ABC) and other channels offered to all subscribers in tiers selected by AT&T, which met applicable federal definitions of cable. It rejected claims that AT&T’s offering was akin to video streaming over the public Internet, individually tailored programming, “interactive on-demand” services or information services. It also rejected claims of deference owed to the DPUC. The court ruled: “the subscriber interaction involved in AT&T’s video programming service is the same as that involved in traditional CATV programming.” It therefore held the DPUC decision preempted by federal law.
Davis Wright Tremaine represented the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association in this precedent-setting decision.