Consumer Groups Voice Data Fears


Consumer groups are wooing the computer hardware and software industries to fight for government policies that police the activities of high-speed data network owners, including phone and cable companies.

"It would appear we do have some similar concerns," said Matthew J. Tanielian, vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and — surprisingly — AOL Time Warner Inc.

Last Tuesday, four consumer groups sent a letter to the High Tech Broadband Coalition (of which Tanielian's ITIC is a member), suggesting that Internet consumers and segments of the computer industry share the goal of ensuring that network owners do not discriminate against unaffiliated content and applications providers.

The letter was drafted by the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union and the Media Access Project, all of which have been heavily involved in lobbying the Federal Communications Commission on broadband-regulation policy.

Some proposals in the four-page letter tracked concerns the coalition raised in comments filed with the FCC in June, Tanielian noted.

In those comments, the coalition said cable operators were, among other things, imposing "troubling" conditions on subscriber use of devices and access to applications and Web sites.

"We're interested in talking to" the consumer groups, Tanielian said. "What that will lead to at this point, I am not sure. I believe that the high-tech industry and consumers have a lot in common on broadband issues."