Oregon local regulators will keep pushing for equal access
to @Home Network, regardless of an apparent setback at the Federal Communication
Despite the FCC's recent refusal to unbundle the
broadband Internet-access market, the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission last week filed
comments indicating that Portland, Ore.-area regulators still plan to pursue the issue
As such, the MHCRC asked reluctant FCC officials to provide
"federal guidelines" for "local franchising authorities seeking to promote
competition on the Internet."
"As much as the FCC would like it to, this issue is
not going away," MHCRC director David Olson said. "No action by the FCC is a
statement in itself. It's a clear message that the locals have the green light to
impose these open-access provisions."
Olson added that the MHCRC expects other local
jurisdictions and members of Congress to voice their support for its position at the FCC.
The MHCRC touched off the equal-access skirmish when it
recommended that Portland and Multnomah counties refuse to transfer their
Tele-Communications Inc. cable franchises to AT&T Corp. unless the long-distance
carrier agreed to allow unaffiliated Internet-service providers onto its high-speed
cable-modem platform, @Home.
The cities subsequently denied the transfers, triggering a
lawsuit in which AT&T is asking a U.S. District Court to rule that the jurisdictions
exceeded their authority.
Meanwhile, Portland city councilman Erik Sten said the
FCC's refusal to address the access issue would not change its legal strategy.
"We saw FCC action as a way to avoid a court case, but
we were never counting on the FCC to act," Sten said.
Eddie Campbell, an aide to Multnomah County Board of
Commissioners chairwoman Beverly Stein, noted that the FCC had left itself the option of
revisiting the issue in the future. "This is not necessarily the last word from the
FCC," Campbell said.
The issue had apparently lost momentum in recent weeks, as
more and more LFAs approved the transfers of their TCI franchises absent any ISP-access
However, breathing new life into the debate last week was
news that a Washington state volunteer cable-advisory group had contacted its counterparts
in Oregon and California about joining forces to promote Internet equal access.
Olson said the Citizens Telecommunications and Technology
Advisory Board -- a 15-member volunteer group that counsels Seattle officials on
cable-related issues -- contacted the MHCRC and a similar advisory group in San Francisco
about joining forces to push the ISP-access issue.
Meanwhile, in King County, Wash., local officials are
expected to vote Feb. 16 on an ordinance requiring nondiscriminatory access to @Home.