News

Group: Forced Access Violates 1st Amendment

6/13/2002 3:14 AM Eastern

Requiring cable operators to carry unaffiliated Internet-service providers
would impose a content-based burden and violate the First Amendment, according
to the industry-backed Media Institute.

The Media Institute -- a nonprofit First Amendment watchdog based in
Washington, D.C. -- came to the defense of the cable industry on the
forced-access issue in comments filed Wednesday with the Federal Communications
Commission, which is considering a multiple-ISP-carriage mandate.

The organization -- which is partly funded by the cable and broadcasting
industries -- said cable-operator selection of an ISP is an exercise of
editorial discretion, and government interference with that selection would face
the strictest examination from the judiciary.

'Given the content-based nature of the cable operator/ISP relationship, any
regulation mandating multiple-ISP access would be subject to strict scrutiny,'
said the Media Institute, which reminded the FCC that a federal judge in Miami
struck down a Broward Country forced-access ordinance as a First Amendment
violation.

March