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Virginia Congressman Appeals for Leased Access

Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher this week made a last ditch effort to rescue the Internet Ventures Inc. petition for "leased access" currently under review at the Federal Communications Commission.

Rep. Boucher is currently in his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives where he is also a member of the House Commerce Committee and its Telecommunications sub-committee. Boucher initiated the House Internet Caucus in 1996 and serves as co-chairman of the 100-member group that helps guide federal policy for the Internet.

In a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard, Boucher expressed his support for the pending IVI petition, which if approved, would grant independent Internet service providers access to proprietary cable networks under Section 612 of the Communications Act.

In the letter, Boucher said that approving the IVI petition would provide diversity of information sources for the general population and create open competition among broadband service providers.

Boucher said that by approving "leased access," the commission would thwart cable companies' monopolistic tendencies in the marketplace.

"Given their monopoly power, cable companies will not necessarily lease channels to independent entities that might compete with cable's own service offerings," Boucher wrote.

In recognition of independent ISPs' ability to impact the industry, Boucher said that a favorable response from the Commission would facilitate high-speed cable access deployment.

"Favorable commission action regarding this Petition will help to accelerate the delivery of high speed, competitively priced broadband services to the American public," Boucher said. "Enabling thousands of ISPs to lease capacity from cable systems will accelerate consumers' demand for high-speed broadband services."

Don Janke, IVI president, said cable access consumers are best served by competition in the marketplace, even if the FCC has to force access to cable delivery systems.

The FCC is expected to rule on the IVI petition next week. Industry insiders report that the petition is doomed by the Commission's "hands-off" stance toward regulating the Internet. Janke said he expects that the federal regulators would deny the order, but that the struggle cable access would not end there.

Quoting baseball great Yogi Berra, Janke believes, "It's not over until it's over."