Washington--A coalition of consumer and media-advocacy
groups petitioned the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to force open
cable's high-speed networks to competing Internet service providers.
In a letter to FCC Commissioner William Kennard, the
Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Media Access Project and the Center for
Media Education said cable operators have a monopoly on high-speed Internet access.
In order to prevent companies from excluding other Internet
service providers from new technology that runs through cable wiring, the coalition asked
the FCC to reverse its "hands-off" policy, which allows certain companies to
develop new technology under tight controls.
The group said the hands-off policy enables cable companies
to reserve networks with the highest transmission speeds for their own uses, while
relegating competitors to less efficient means of transport.
"The Commission must act swiftly to ensure that the
Internet doesn't become the victim of the same discriminatory practices that have
long stifled competition in cable's video programming, resulting in more price
increases and fewer choices for consumers and content providers alike," said Mark
Cooper, research director of the Consumer Federation of America.
The FCC said it would carefully review the materials
presented by the consumer groups.
Washington lawmakers also took steps to increase high speed
Internet access. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., unveiled legislation Wednesday that would
give ISPs access to cable networks through existing leased-access requirements.
Introduced in the House Commerce Committee, the Consumer
and Community Choice in Access Act of 1999 would ensure that local communities can choose
their high-speed Internet provider.
"The majority of Americans are still in the
horse-and-buggy era of Internet communications, by connecting through the phone
lines," Blumenauer said. "Cable has the potential of moving millions of American
households into the equivalent of a high-speed-rail Internet connection."
States News Service