FCC Advisors: Probe High-Speed Access


A Federal Communications Commission advisory group plans to
urge the agency to examine the question of whether cable's broadband networks should
be unbundled.

The FCC Local and State Government Advisory Committee
decided to make the recommendation during a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., sources
close to the matter said last week.

It did so at the urging of San Francisco city attorney
Louise Renne, who believes that AT&T's Corp.'s @Home Network should be
opened to unaffiliated Internet-service providers as a means of ensuring consumer choice.

Renne pitched her case to the committee just days after it
was announced that San Francisco had agreed to transfer nearly 190,000 Tele-Communications
Inc. subscribers to AT&T Broadband & Internet Services in exchange for an upgrade
of the city's cable system to 750 megahertz.

The committee will recommend that the FCC issue a notice of
inquiry that would allow interested parties to submit their views on the issue, sources

Whether or not the FCC will comply is problematic, however.
The agency decided last month not to make unbundling of the @Home platform a requirement
for approving AT&T's recently completed acquisition of TCI. However, it did agree
to monitor the market effects of the AT&T/TCI deal.

Advisory committee chairman Ken Fellman declined to reveal
what course the group will suggest that the FCC take on the controversial equal-access
issue, noting that a final recommendation is at least two weeks away.

Fellman also declined to speculate on whether the FCC will
follow the committee's recommendation. "Sometimes they do, sometimes they
don't," he said.

Meanwhile, sources predicted that San Francisco's
transfer agreement with AT&T will likely be approved by the city's Board of
Supervisors, despite anger over the city's failure to wring additional concessions
from the two companies.

"But this is going to be a long process," a
spokesman for board president Tom Amminiano said.