Cable ops fight VoIP phone outage requirements

Cable operators are fighting a proposal from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Proposal that would mandate that VoIP and broadband service providers supply the FCC with reports detailing outages to their digital phone services.

Representatives from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the American Cable Association (ACA) and the CTIA (International Association for Wireless Communications) voiced their concerns during a meeting with FCC officials last week, according to an ex parte filing at commission. The groups argued that mandating the same outage requirements for VoIP providers as traditional telephone companies would create "significant economic burdens."

It's been 15 years since Congress passed the Telecommunications Act, which allowed cable operators to challenge AT&T (NYSE: T) , Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and other telcos in the voice business. Most cable operators, from major providers such as Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), to smaller operators like Mediacom, offer telephone service as part of their triple-play packages to subscribers.

Fighting the outage reporting mandates could have some drawbacks for cable operators. Cable MSOs have been fighting a bigger share of the FCC's Universal Service Fund, and market cable digital phone services as a product that is as reliable as telephone service from AT&T or Verizon. It could be difficult for operators to compare themselves to traditional telcos if they are not willing to adhere to the same outage reporting requirements.

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