W. Kenneth Ferree, the new Cable Services Bureau chief at the Federal
Communications Commission, has won an internal policy debate within the
2,000-person bureaucracy over control of the cable open-access report, according
The FCC has for months been studying the regulatory issues associated with
compelling cable operators to provide nondiscriminatory access to competing
Internet-service providers. A report from the agency is not expected for several
The FCC moved into the open-access arena after various federal courts issued
conflicting decisions. One said cable Internet was a cable service, another said
an information service, and a third said partly a telecommunications service and
partly an information service.
The FCC launched the proceeding last September under former chairman William
Kennard. The examination was classified as a 'notice of inquiry' with no bureau
in a supervisory role. When the notice was unveiled, the FCC produced officials
from the CSB, the Common Carrier Bureau and the Office of Plans and Policy to
brief the media.
According to sources, FCC chairman Michael Powell has settled any possible
conflict among bureau personnel by informing Ferree -- an old friend whom Powell
picked to run the CSB -- that cable staff would take the lead in generating the
Other sources cautioned that although it was likely that the CSB would
perform the bulk of the work, the open-access report would undoubtedly turn into
a collaborative effort, especially if some of the five FCC commissioners seek
input from the other bureaus if they have questions about the analysis forwarded
by Ferree's team.
The decision to give the CSB a paramount role was viewed as good news for the
cable industry, which had concerns that the CCB -- which regulates a phone
industry that already has open-access requirements -- might be predisposed to
classify cable Internet as a 'telecommunications service' and conclude that
open-access rules apply.
Sources also noted that when the CSB plunges into drafting an open-access
report, it will not do so without a common-carrier perspective close by. Sources
noted that as one of his first moves, Ferree hired Sarah Whitesell as associate
bureau chief. Whitesell's last job at the FCC was as a common-carrier adviser to
commissioner Gloria Tristani.