Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps warned Thursday that the agency was advancing policies that would allow broadband networks owned by cable and phone companies to smother competition and discriminate against Internet applications and content providers.
Copps, a Democrat, who spoke to the New America Foundation, essentially embraced the position of a Microsoft Corp.-supported coalition that has been hounding the FCC to impose "network-neutrality" rules on cable companies, the leading providers of residential high-speed data, with more than 14 million customers.
"The [FCC] strikes me as on course to replace open networks with closed systems. It is permitting, even encouraging, competition to wither in the face of centralization. And it is short-changing its responsibility to protect the public interest," Copps said.
Copps was taking aim at FCC chairman Michael Powell's approach to broadband regulation. The Republican chairman supports classifying broadband access as an information service that is not subject to open-access and nondiscrimination rules that apply to traditional telecommunications carriers. Incumbent cable and phone companies back that policy for their high-speed-data services.
Copps said he disagreed with cable's position that regulators should intervene only after evidence of network-owner discrimination was produced.
"Those with bottleneck control over the transmission facilities that are the on-ramps to the Internet should have to guarantee -- not a principle, not a best effort, but a guarantee -- that all comers will be treated equally and that they will not use their power over bottlenecks to discriminate between different content, users or usage," Copps said.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association didn't have an immediate reaction to Copps' remarks.
The group pressing for "Net Neutrality" is called the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI). It includes Amazon.com Inc., Yahoo! Inc., eBay Inc., The Walt Disney Co., RadioShack Corp., Microsoft and Leo J. Hindery Jr.'s Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network.