Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Look Back at Aereo’s Interesting Final Year

The Source of My Policy Geekdom…

I wrote a couple times this past year about Aereo. This is mostly because I’m a bit of a telecom policy geek. My telecom policy geekdom all started decades ago, thanks to a class I took while studying for my B.A. in Telecommunications.  Telecommunications Law, I think it was called. The key thing I took away from that class, taught by the exceptional Professor Thomas Muth, was that it was often possible to credibly, honestly argue either side of a policy debate simply by interpreting the Communications Act of 1934 differently. I was working for telcos when that was replaced by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. What makes telecom law so interesting is that it is often up to interpretation, with case history sometimes providing a window into expected FCC and court decisions, but the Telecom Act often allows for changes in policy direction, if desired. And in the case of Aereo, there was even case history supporting opposing potential decisions.

…and How It Led to My Aereo Posts

So that’s what made Aereo so interesting to me; that’s what prompted two posts, first on April 8th and again on April 20th.  This was a situation in which both sides could find support in telecom laws and case histories; the main question was how those laws would be interpreted in this particular case.

The Unraveling of Aereo Since June, and the Beginning of Its Final Dismantling

I wasn’t blogging much, and therefore failed to publish any posts about Aereo, during the time period that Aereo was “deemed illegal” by the Supreme Court in June (as noted in this TechCrunch article) or when it lost its appeal to be consider a cable company in August (see this c|net article). Nor did I post in November when Aereo’s Chet Kanojia penned a final farewell to the company’s customers (which, at least for now, can still be seen on Aereo’s website).

Most recently, the company was in the news a couple weeks ago for a court decision allowing it to auction off its equipment (as detailed in this telecompaper article).

This seems to be the end for Aereo, but for the telecom policy geek in me, at least, it was interesting following the ups and downs of this potentially disruptive telecom business.

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Which Telecom Providers Could Spin Off Assets as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)?

Though I don’t have a lot to say about this article about telecom service providers spinning off REITs, by Reinhardt Krause of Investor’s Business Daily, a couple of things struck me about it.  It may be of more interest to me than to many of you, but it’s my blog, so I’m going to write about it.  It’s a topic I may return to as I run across articles with additional thoughts on the financial structuring of assets in the telecom industry or chat with industry contacts about their thoughts.

First, at the end of the article, I learned that the big tower operators American Tower and Crown Castle were structured as REITs (real estate investment trusts).  I didn’t know that before, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had thought about it; it makes perfect sense.

Of course, the key point of the article is the prediction that Frontier may follow Windstream down the path of telcos restructuring their network assets as REITs.  And the article points out that, even if an REIT trend ensues, large carriers like Verizon and AT&T are unlikely to restructure using REITs, if only due to the regulatory difficulties they would encounter trying to get approval.  The article lists CenturyLink, Cincinnati Bell, and TDS as other carriers who might follow Windstream into the REIT pool

In any case, it’s a concept worth keeping an eye on, particularly to those of us with interest in telcos, real estate financial structures, and the combination of the two.

And for those who’d like to read about the Windstream REIT spinoff that started all of this, I dug up this July 29 Windstream press release on Telecom Ramblings about it.

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