RealTime IT News

Open Access Remains Hot Issue

The thirst for high-speed Internet access is leading several upstarts to embark on several projects as traditional rivals continue their bickering.

Colorado is the next state in the U.S. to reap the broadband Internet access rewards of a massive cable network overbuilds by WideOpenWest LLC.

The open access cable proponent recently started construction on the nation's first competitive fiber optic telecommunications system in Jefferson County, Colo.

WideOpenWest Thursday obtained regulatory approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to provide telecommunications services over its broadband networks throughout Colorado's Front Range.

Mark Haverkate, WideOpenWestpresident and chief executive officer, said the CPUC was quick to approve its application for digital services.

"The Colorado Public Utilities Commission completed their extensive review of WideOpenWest's financial, technical, legal and management qualifications and approved our application expeditiously." Haverkate said. "As a state certified competitive telecommunications company WideOpenWest hopes to soon provide a complete suite of digital communications services to Colorado residents."

WideOpenWest plans to begin service in the metropolitan areas of Denver later this year. The firm is also overbuilding cable networks in Portland and several Texas cities.

Unlike other cable companies currently retrofit their systems, the WideOpenWest network operates on an open platform to provide both its branded Internet service as well as access for competing ISP's on a non-discriminatory basis.

In related news, U S WEST late Thursday accused AT&T (T) of stunting the Internet's growth for its continued "closed access" cable policy.

U S WEST (USW) Chief Counsel Mark Roellig called for a meaningful dialogue to discuss "open access" to cable systems and its potential to transform the Internet.

"The failure of the cable monopoly to open its network to competing Internet access providers is one of the most significant obstacles to continued growth of the Internet," Roellig said.

Roellig said the Internet has changed the way we live, work and play over the past few years, but that may be a thing of the past without consumer choice of access providers.

"Without real choices in Internet providers and content, consumers will be denied the full benefits of the information age," Roellig said.

"Unless meaningful 'open access' policies are enacted at the national and local levels, millions of Americans will continue to lose out on the benefits of open competition among Internet providers, better products and lower prices," he added.

U S WEST is in the process of merging with Qwest Communications International Inc. (Q). The combination of the two companies will create a communications powerhouse with a market capitalization of more than $70 billion. Together, the two firms will have more than 3 million miles of deployed fiber and 29 million customers worldwide.

Earlier in the week, Maryland legislators this week rejected "open access" bills before the state.

Peter Arnold, Hands off the Internet executive director, said open access arguments are not a good match for the Internet economy.

"Maryland's decision is further coalescing of the opinion that Internet access regulations just don't make economic sense," Arnold said.

Six state legisl