Mar 2, 2006
Lodi's council weighs AT&T fee
LODI - The Lodi City Council was scheduled Wednesday to rescind an ordinance it passed in December to require telecommunications giant AT&T to pay a franchise fee in order to deploy a new fiber-optic television service within city limits.
AT&T, formerly SBC Communications, is suing Lodi in San Joaquin County Superior Court over the Dec. 21 ordinance that would allow the phone company to bring fiber-optic Internet and phone service to Lodi, but would require a fee to deliver TV or video service.
Lodi City Attorney Steve Schwabauer recommended the ordinance, expecting the TV service to be regulated in the same manner as cable television companies, which are required to pay franchise fees to cities.
Lodi will collect about $233,000 from Comcast Cable in 2006.
On Wednesday, Schwabauer recommended the resolution be rescinded based on a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in January in a possibly related case.
In Sprint v. The City of La Canada Flintridge, the city attempted to deny the construction of wireless communication towers based on their aesthetic appearance.
The appeals court ruled that telephone companies, under a state public utilities code and the federal Telecommunications Act, have the right to extend their reach of services and upgrade their networks wherever they want to as long as it doesn't interfere with the public well-being.
"We need to take some time to think about the case and possibly revisit the ordinance," Schwabauer said.
AT&T's fiber-optic network, which it calls Project Lightspeed, is set to deploy test services in Lodi and other cities in California this year.
Lightspeed spokesman Gordon Diamond said the company is upgrading its service to provide competitive service and is doing so within its rights.
Diamond said AT&T is not opposed to paying cities up to 5 percent of gross revenues or providing public access channels and emergency services, but it needs to upgrade its network in a timely manner first.
"If we had to get a decision from every city and enter into a franchise agreement, it would take seven years," Diamond said.
The California Cable & Telecommunications Association did not return a phone call Wednesday, but its Web site, www.calcable.org
, does present an argument for all TV services to be regulated the same. A Comcast spokeswoman declined to comment.
Project Lightspeed will bring broadband Internet, TV and voice services through fiber-optic cables to homes in two ways: fiber-to-the-premises and fiber-to-the-neighborhood.
Direct connections will allow data to move as fast as 39 megabits per second. In comparison, typical cable and DSL broadband services offer speeds up to 6 megabits per second.
Neighborhood connections will bring fiber-optic wires to neighborhoods, where they'll connect to existing copper wires entering residents' homes. Up to 25 megabits of data per second could travel over those connections.
The new TV service would offer special features, including enhanced digital recording, multiple camera angles of sporting events via picture-in-picture views, an enhanced program guide and more, according to a demonstration on an SBC Web site.
Diamond said the company's goal is to reach 18 million customers nationwide by the middle of 2008. AT&T will spend $4 billion to $5 bill-ion to deploy the fiber-optic cables in California and 12 other states.
Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 367-7428 or email@example.com://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.d...603020357/1003