Industry Questions Need for Open-Access Cop

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Various industry groups and companies were quick to weigh in
Monday on FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's proposal to expand and codify agency
Internet-openness principles
.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president
Kyle McSlarrow applauded the chairman's vision of "preserving an open Internet,"
but said the cable trade group "may have a different view about the state of
competition and choices and benefits that flow to consumers from that
competiton."

Genachowski had suggested that one of the reasons new regulations
were needed was that there was insufficient competition among Internet-service
providers. The chairman outlined his proposal in a speech at the Brookings
Institution here on Monday.

"We will continue to present facts and data to the
Commission that suggest that any regulation in this arena should be approached
with great caution and only in the most targeted way, and to advocate policies
that avoid government entanglement in operational decisions that could
undermine the very dynamism of the Internet we all seek to preserve," McSlarrow
said.

Comcast, which was the subject of the FCC's Aug. 20, 2008, finding
that the company's broadband network-management practices violated the FCC's Internet-access
principles,
was thinking positive, but with caveats as well.

"Comcast applauds Chairman Genachowski's goal of ensuring
that the Internet remains open as it is today, and we welcome the dialogue
suggested by his comments," the Philadelphia-based MSO
said in a statement. "The chairman has made it clear that Commission decisions
must be based on hard facts and data, and we are committed to work with the chairman
and the other commissioners in this proceeding.

"We also appreciate that the chairman recognized that
networks need to be managed and that consumer disclosure of those techniques is
important."

In his blog on the chairman's announcement,
Comcast executive vice president David Cohen added some notes of caution.

"Before we rush into a new regulatory environment for the
Internet, let's remember there can be no doubt that the Internet has enjoyed
immense growth even as these debates have gone on," said Cohen. "It will be
incredibly important for the agency to review the data to determine whether
there are actual and substantial problems that may require rules."

Those sentiments were echoed by Verizon director of Internet
and technology policy David Young in a roundtable discussion following
Genachowski's speech at Brookings on Monday.

Like Comcast's Cohen, Young was pleased that the chairman
said the rules would be driven by data and facts. But he also also wasn't sure
he saw a problem that needed to be addressed with first-time regulations on the
Internet, he said.

Randolph May of The
Free State Foundation, a free-market think tank, called it "regulatory
hubris and immodesty."

At Brookings, Genachowski said coming up with new principles
to prevent discrimination in services or applications, and to require
transparency in reasonable network management, would be an open, transparent
and fact-based process with no foregone conclusions and plenty of public input.

"Despite good intentions, the likelihood of error costs from
overregulation -- in an environment in which Genachowski says we cannot know
what tomorrow holds for the Internet -- are likely to be exceedingly high,"
said May. "The presumption that the FCC will know the point at which it has
gotten regulation just right demonstrates an immodest approach that likely will
dampen the successes that Genachowski acknowledges have taken place without the
type of regulation he proposes."

Adding its own concerns was CTIA-The Wireless Association.
The cellphone trade group said most recently auctioned wireless spectrum --
except the C-block auction, which was sold with open-access conditions -- was not
sold subject to open access.

"Now, the commission is considering changing the rules after
the auction -- impacting companies' confidence in the auction process -- just
as carriers are facing a brewing spectrum crisis," said CTIA vice president of
regulatory affairs Chris Guttman-McCabe in a statement.

While all three Democratic FCC members had weighed in
with their support by deadline for this story, there has yet been no word from
either Republican commissioner.

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