Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is Cablevision Clearband or OMGFast the Opening Gambit of a Historic Move?

Cablevision apparently is selling a fixed wireless broadband Internet and telephone service in Florida, using the Clearband or OMGFast brand names, charging subscribers $29.95 monthly for a 50 Mbps Internet connection that competes with Comcast and Time Warner Cable, at least in the voice and broadband access areas.  

Moreover, Cablevision also appears to own  licenses in 45 total markets. Cablevision acquired MVDDS licenses in 45 markets in 2004, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Miami, Cleveland, Nashville, and Tampa-St. Petersburg. 

Federal Communications Commission cross-ownership rules likely would require that Cablevision sell the New York license, or limit its broadband wireless service to parts of the market in which it doesn't market its Optimum digital cable, phone and Internet products to subscribers.

Cablevision, almost singularly among top U.S. cable operators, thus appears ready to break ranks in a major way with its other top U.S. cable operators in respecting an informal "we don't compete with each other" understanding.

It wouldn't be the first time. Cablevision in the past has backed satellite direct broadcasting efforts that would similarly have competed with cable operators around the United States.  

It isn't clear what Cablevision might be thinking about operations elsewhere. But if Cablevision decides to "overbuild" in some or all of its other areas, it would be historic, marking the first time a top-10 U.S. cable operator has decided to compete with other cable operators in their franchise areas. 

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