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IVI Pitches Last Ditch Effort for Lease Access

A California-based Internet provider is waging its final sortie in the battle for leased access to proprietary cable networks in the United States.

Don Janke, Internet Ventures Inc. president, Tuesday filed an ex parte letter with the Federal Communications Commission after meeting with four commissioners earlier this week.

Internet Ventures Inc. filed its original petition with the FCC on June 2. IVI invoked the "must carry" clause of the 1996 Federal Communications Act, contending that cable operators must carry independent Internet services on their networks under the same rules requiring cable companies to offer subscribers all local broadcast channels.

IVI sought to open up a new legal front in the battle for open access to cable modem networks, even though the "must-carry" provision of the legislation has never been interpreted to apply to ISPs.

In the letter, Janke once again asked that the FCC allow conventional Internet providers to compete with cable access providers by invoking the leased access clause.

"Don't regulate the Internet out of the video programming business," Janke said. "Your decision will open or close the Internet's access to compete, with cable's program services, as Internet Video Programmers. IVPs will either thrive or stagnate based on your decision."

Janke informed four FCC commissioners earlier this week that leased access to cable networks was the best way to lower consumer cable rates through video programming competition. He also told the federal regulators that leased access was the means by which the FCC could fulfill their mandate to encourage competition in the marketplace.

"You can lower cable rates through video programming competition," Janke said. "Internet video programming, through leased access, drives lower pricing through true diversity. It fulfills your agency's long standing promise to consumers and Congress, to provide us with true competition and the widest possible diversity of video programming," he added.

In the letter to the commissioners, Janke said the best way to accelerate the deployment of broadband services in the U.S. is to grant IVI's petition.

"Granting our petition will quickly provide all consumers an alternative broadband Internet choice," Janke said.

According to Janke, leased access would also close the gap on the digital divide in the U.S, in reference to broadband access to the Internet from remote and rural communities.

Leased access proponent Bill Shapiro, Vermont Department of Public Service, said that because proximity to central offices determined the availability of Digital Subscriber Line services in his state, cable access was the only solution for high-speed access to the Internet.

"Vermont residents can only have an affordable, universally available, service through your of granting of leased access," Shapiro said in support of IVI's petition.

Janke expects that the FCC will rule on the IVI petition for leased access sometime within the next two weeks. However slim the chances are that the FCC will grant their petition, Janke remains guardedly optimistic.

Janke commended the commissioners for their recent media cross-ownership ruling that broadened the opportunities for ownership of broadcasting facilities, but cautioned the federal regulators that an unfavorable decision could stunt the growth of broadband access to the Internet.

"Only recently, you approved revised Media Cross-Ownership Rules that worked to the benefit of the cable industry," Janke said. "If you now decide to exclude a technology not contemplated in the 1984 Communications Act, you arbitrarily choose to look backward to 1984 this time, instead of looking forward.

"You will retard broadband Internet growt