RealTime IT News

Protest Planned During FCC Merger Review

The forthcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions are not the only gatherings bracing for massive protests.

The Consumer Project on Technology plans to rally a massive protest at the Federal Communications Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The Green Party's presidential nominee, Ralph Nader, founded the CPT in 1995.

Dubbed the "Protect the Internet" protest, the CPT is organizing a rally to focus on the FCC's continued refusal to establish a national broadband policy in support of "open access."

The July 27th demonstration will take place outside of the FCC's offices and coincide with the Commission's hearing on the proposed America Online Inc. and Time-Warner Inc. merger.

CPT contends that most residential consumers currently have two choices for broadband Internet connectivity, digital subscriber line access or cable modem services. The group argues that DSL operators, because they employ telephone lines, are required by the FCC to open up their networks to competing Internet service providers. Meanwhile, plants are not obliged to share their networks with rivals.

Last week, American Online and Time Warner announced they would test a shared cable system in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier in the year, Excite@Home released its "Memorandum of Understanding" with the approval of AT&T Corp. stating that the companies supported "open access" and would provide competitive access on its networks when an exclusive contract expires in two years.

Excite@Home lended credibility to the memo by signing an agreement with MindSpring Enterprises Inc. to share its high-speed cable connectivity when exclusivity is no longer an issue for the firm.

CPT accepts that cable operators have announced a variety of plans to build an infrastructure that would share ISP access, but that it would provide different levels of service for their banded services over rival content providers.

According to the CPT, the history of the cable service is to discriminate in favor of affiliated services, and to use bottlenecks to influence the distribution of video content. Now cable operators want the freedom to speed up access to affiliated or favored Internet content, while deliberately putting others on a slower service.

The group cites a 1999 Cisco Systems Inc. study titled, Controlling Your Network - A Must for Cable Operators. According to Cisco , the primary firm providing hardware and software for the proprietary cable platforms system operators will be able to restrict the incoming push broadcasts from competitors as well as subscribers' outgoing access to the push information site to discourage its use.

While the Cisco White Paper is of interest to cable operators, modem-based routing is wholly capable of performing the same type of packet prioritization, regardless of the communications platform used for transport over the Internet.

James Love, CDT director, said the FCC should not trust big business. Federal regulators should do their jobs and protect consumers and the Internet.

"I think the FCC's approach is we trust AT&T, we trust Time Warner, we trust AOL," Love said. "We feel the government needs to do their job and start protecting protect open access and the Internet."

Love added that the rush to deploy broadband systems has placed the regulatory cart before the horse.

"I think the idea that you build a network and sort out the regulatory issues later is a mistake," Love said. "In this case the FCC has to start out with