CU, CFA Seek Senate Hearings

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Two consumer groups Wednesday called for Senate hearings to examine the
Federal Communications Commission's "race to deregulate" cable and phone-company
providers of high-speed Internet access.

The groups -- the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America --
said the FCC was about to make dramatic policy changes "behind closed doors" and
urged the leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee to stage a hearing
promptly.

Under Republican chairman Michael Powell, the agency is a few months away
from deciding whether high-speed-data carriers have to share their networks with
rivals or comply with nondiscrimination rules relative to unaffiliated
Internet-content and commerce vendors.

In their letter, the consumer groups told Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and
Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) that the FCC appeared quite close to blessing "closed"
networks with their owners, rather than competitive markets, deciding the fate
of the Internet.

"We fear that the results will hurt consumers, stifle innovation and severely
impact the vigorous public debate on which our democracy thrives," the CU and
the CFA wrote.

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