Silicon Valley start-ups that think broadband "forced
access" threatens their entrepreneurial livelihoods lined up behind Excite@Home Corp.
The cable-modem service reiterated arguments against
municipal regulation of broadband Internet services in a Nov. 1 letter to the Federal
Communications Commission. The missive was co-signed by 120 other companies.
The letter -- identical to an Aug. 16 letter to FCC
chairman William Kennard -- was released as the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
considered arguments in the Portland, Ore., access case.
"We all believe that a vibrant, rapidly growing
Internet brings a host of benefits to the U.S. economy, and to society more
generally," the letter read. "If the Ninth Circuit does not overturn the lower
court's decision, the Internet's rapid growth could be slowed by a raft of
inconsistent local policies."
Signers included General Instrument Corp.; cable-modem
manufacturers Com21 Inc. and Terayon Communication Systems Inc.; investment firm
BancBoston Robertson Stephens; and giant online securities brokers Charles Schwab &
Co. and E*TRADE Securities Inc.
The list is dominated by the likes of Arepa.com Inc., Avivo
Corp.'s atomz.com, HotShot Systems and SegaSoft Networks Inc. -- technology-oriented
companies riding the explosion of Internet usage and availability of broadband networks
such as two-way cable.
"The biggest concern we have is that things happening
at the local level almost seem to be against the consumer, and that's odd because I
know that's not what the government agencies are trying to effect," said Greg
Chiemingo, senior vice president of marketing and communications for San Francisco-based
Like many companies signing the letter, SegaSoft has a
business relationship with Excite@Home, in this case for online gaming. But Chiemingo
noted that his company was platform-agnostic -- it also works with digital-subscriber-line
providers -- and it generally opposed regulation that might brake broadband access.
That sentiment was echoed by Milpitas, Calif.-based Com21,
which sees broadband-systems growth slowing as already limited manpower is redirected to
upgrading systems in order to accommodate access by multiple Internet-service providers.
That prospect cuts to the heart of high-tech's
entrepreneurial spirit, Com21 vice president of corporate marketing Buck Gee said.
"People beginning to regulate what goes on in the
industry tends to scare people off in Silicon Valley," Gee said. "Silicon Valley
tends to believe in the value of innovation and technology, and that government regulation
tends to distort markets."