Washington -- Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin
Hatch (R-Utah) said last Tuesday that he believes that evidence is mounting that Microsoft
Corp. is attempting to dominate the Internet-access business through cable and related
"This is a matter of great concern -- much more than
the browser ever was," Hatch said, referring to Microsoft's Web-browser
imbroglio with Netscape Communications Corp. that triggered a Department of Justice
antitrust complaint against the software giant.
Hatch, speaking at a hearing of the Judiciary Subcommittee
on Antitrust, Business Rights and Competition, pointed to Microsoft's purchase of
WebTV Networks; to its investments in Comcast Corp. and the Road Runner high-speed-data
service for a combined $1.6 billion; and to software deals for advanced cable set-top
boxes as clear indications of Microsoft's designs.
"The result is that Microsoft has a significant stake
in and/or partnership with each of the major U.S. cable operators," Hatch said.
A Microsoft spokesman did not return a reporter's
AT&T chairman C. Michael Armstrong, whose company is
buying Tele-Communications Inc. for an announced $48 billion, said the future TCI, under
his command, would have open set-top standards.
"We will absolutely continue to support an
open-systems approach," Armstrong said, adding that even Internet-service rival
America Online Inc. could purchase high-speed access from AT&T's @Home Network
"They could subscribe and get that," Armstrong
said, at a later point in the hearing. "It would be absolutely silly for that to be a
Time Warner Inc. president Richard Parsons said he was
concerned about Microsoft's power, but he promised that no one company would gain
control over cable's set-top operating system.
Hatch, who supports the DOJ's antitrust suit, said he
was concerned that Microsoft will use its computer-operating-system monopoly to gain
control of the Internet-access business.
"What I am struck by is the apparent push by Microsoft
to control this platform for Internet access, in addition to control of the PC [personal
computer] desktop, which they already have," Hatch said.
John Marselle, president of Microsoft rival Sun
Microsystems Inc.'s federal-procurement division, agreed with Hatch.
"They are going to try to own that market,"
Marselle said, adding that a cable box with open standards meant more opportunity for Sun.