Washington -- Direct-broadcast satellite operators are
worried that House legislation designed to open cable networks to all Internet-service
providers contains language that might apply the open-access mandate to satellite
The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association
issued that warning in its weekly newsletter -- sent via e-mail June 11 to SBCA members
and the media -- referring to a bill (H.R. 1686) introduced by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) called the Internet Freedom Act.
In one provision aimed at cable operators, the bill would
allow unaffiliated ISPs to file antitrust suits against "a broadband-access transport
provider that has market power" in order to gain nondiscriminatory access.
In a second, more general provision, the bill would make it
unlawful for "a broadband-access transport provider to engage in unfair methods of
competition or deceptive acts or practices," including favoring affiliated ISPs.
SBCA spokeswoman Jennifer Buckley indicated that the bill's
broader language, unless changed, could be read to include DBS carriers in the open-access
"This would make us a common carrier, like a phone
company, which we are not at this point," Buckley said. "If we were to offer
access to the hundreds of ISPs out there, at this point, it would be of concern to
Boucher is a longtime proponent of the DBS industry as a
competitive alternative to cable, making inclusion of DBS in the open-access provisions
somewhat of a surprise.
But Goodlatte spokeswoman Ellen Stroud said inclusion of
DBS was no accident, adding that the purpose of the bill was to create the same rules
"The Internet Freedom Act is not intended to be
technology-specific," she said.