RealTime IT News

Los Angeles ISPs Invite FCC Chair to Chat

Four Los Angeles-area Internet service providers are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard to balance his scheduled discussions with cable executives this week, by granting them a 10-minute meeting to discuss their side of the open access debate.

Jim Pickrell of Brand X Internet, Mario Araujo of AztecaNet, Tony Cappelli of LA Bridge Internet and Hossein Farmani of aNet Communications said in a letter sent to Kennard that fairness dictates he speak with them about open access to closed cable networks.

"We, too, would like to speak to you regarding open access," the letter said. "The cable industry has one perspective. As independent ISPs, we have an entirely different perspective."

"You will be delivering a special address at the Cable Television Association's 'Western Show' convention on Thursday morning and meeting with cable executives to discuss the open access issue," the letter continued. "We respectfully request 10 minutes, or whatever time you have available, to share our views on the open access issue."

The foursome representing independent ISPs in the Los Angeles area said they would meet with Kennard anywhere at any time.

"Given the amount of time you will be spending with cable company executives during your trip, we believe this request is both fair and reasonable. We hope and trust you will agree," the letter said.

"All we are asking for is a level playing field," Pickrell said. "The Internet is flourishing today because the telephone companies are required by law to open their lines to competition. We'd like to be given an equal chance."

The ISP owners have not received a response to their request.

The FCC has declined to require cable companies to open their high-speed Internet lines to competition. As a result of federal inaction, local municipalities across the nation have levied open-access conditions as part of AT&T Corp.'s terms to assume TeleCommunications Inc. and MediaOne Group ( UMG) franchises.

AT&T (T) spelled out the details of its commitment to open access to their cable networks in a letter sent to Kennard last week. The letter was co-signed by AT&T and Mindspring executives,as MindSpring (MSPG) is set to become one of the first new AT&T Internet transport service artners when AT&T's exclusive contract with Excite@Home. (ATHM) expires in 2002.

For the most part, independent ISPs consider AT&T's actions a stall tactic to delay their ability to tap into closed cable systems and provide broadband services other than proximity-limited Digital Subscriber Line access.

Open access proponent Greg Simon, OpenNET Coalition co-director, said a more reasonable transition period for open access to AT&T's cable networks is to convert the closed system in a matter of months, not more than two years.

"The OpenNet Coalition welcomes the AT&T-MindSpring agreement because it ends the debate as to whether open access is good for business and consumers," Simon said. "AT&T concedes that the technology to share cable network access is available and that deployment should take place as quickly as possible."

Los Angeles has been a hotbed of the open access debate since this summer when