FCC Brief Opposes Cable Internet Access Regulation

The Federal Communications Commission filed a brief in a federal appeals court that opposes local regulations that would compel cable companies to grant access to their networks to rival Internet service providers.

The FCC filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of AT& T's 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.

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

Inconsistent local regulation of 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's 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 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. "Openness and competition give [choices] 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 toward forcing them to open up their networks.

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