FCC Brief Opposes Cable Internet Access Regulation

As expected, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filed a legal brief today in a federal appeals court opposing local regulation that would compel cable companies to open up access to their networks to rival ISPs (Internet service providers).

The FCC filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of AT&T Corp. in its appeal of a federal court ruling in Oregon that required the telephone giant to allow ISPs other than affiliates to have access to its network, and thus provide AT&T customers more choice in ISPs.

FCC Chairman William Kennard has repeatedly opposed regulating broadband access, saying free market competition will foster more diverse access to ISPs and continue the development of high-speed Internet systems.

Imposing inconsistent local regulations on providers of broadband technology "could undermine the development of intermodel competition," between cable operators, wireline telephone companies, providers of wireless telecommunications services and satellite communications firms, the FCC "friend of the court" brief said.

"It would seem to make sense to categorize all Internet access services uniformly, regardless of the facilities used to obtain Internet access," the commission said in the brief.

Kennard also issued a statement today in support of AT&T's appeal.

"Internet users want and expect choice, and as the drivers of the market, they will not be satisfied unless they get it," he said in the statement. "Openness and competition give it to them. While we continue to monitor closely this market's dynamics, I believe it is far too early for any government regulator to move in."

Last week, Kennard rejected a recommendation from the FCC's Local and State Government Advisory Committee to begin an inquiry into complaints about cable companies with an eye towards forcing them to open up their networks.

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