RealTime IT News

AT&T Commits to Open Cable Access

AT&T Corp. Monday outlined its commitment to provide the online community with a choice of Internet Service Providers for high-speed Internet access over the company's broadband cable and fixed wireless systems.

In a radical departure from recent court cases challenging local authority to mandate open access to their cable networks, AT&T's (T) fixed wireless systems will be able to serve-up broadband access the ISP of their choice as, soon as the systems are deployed beginning next year.

In order to provide consumers with their choice of ISP, AT&T will not extend its exclusivity contract with cable access provider Excite@Home. The exclusivity contract is set to expire in mid-2002.

Excite@Home (ATHM) issued a statement in support of AT&T's move to share access to their cable networks with select Internet service providers.

The cable access provider declared that the competitive marketplace, not government intervention, is the best way to provide consumers with a wide variety of choices for high-speed Internet services.

"In a marketplace that is highly competitive and spurring investments, the terms by which cable companies provide their facilities to other businesses should be resolved in private business negotiations, not through government regulation," the statement read.

Excite@Home added that they intend to have a long and mutually beneficial relationship with all our cable partners even after their exclusivity contract with AT&T expires.

"We look forward to developing new business relationships ourselves in the post exclusive period with both existing and new partners that will expand our markets further."

Excite@Home intends to work with their cable partners to establish terms of carriage for the AT&T post-exclusive period. The leading cable access provider also expects to be an integral part of supplying Internet transport services to other ISPs as they work to expanding their broadband services to other high-speed data platforms.

AT&T spelled out details of its commitment to open access to their cable networks in a letter sent Monday to FCC Chairman William Kennard. The letter was co-signed by AT&T General Counsel James W. Cicconi and Mindspring Vice President David N. Baker. MindSpring (MSPG) is set to become one of the first new AT&T Internet transport service partners.

Dave Baker, MindSpring vice president of legal and regulatory affairs, said the deal with AT&T was an important first step in the right direction of guaranteeing consumers a choice of high-speed cable access providers.

"We are encouraged by AT&T's efforts. But consumers should enjoy the benefits of open access sooner rather than later," Baker said.

Baker added that consumers should not have to wait for exclusive arrangements between AT&T and its affiliates to expire years from now in order to open access to cable networks.

"We hope that federal policy makers will grasp the opportunity that this initial agreement creates because only clear and unambiguous federal policy can make the promise of this agreement real, enforceable, and timely. Otherwise today's agreement may not benefit consumers for years to come."

Charles Brewer, MindSpring chairman and chief executive officer, said it's not a matter of obtaining open access anymore, it's a matter of deploying it.

"Hopefully now the discussion about open access can shift from whether or not to have it to exactly how and when to implement it, and that certainly is a step in the right direction" Brewer said.

"Open access to telecommunicat