RealTime IT News

Open Cable Access Solutions Sent To FCC

An ex parte filing on behalf of independent Internet service providers was sent to the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, calling for the halt to what many consider Time Warner's anti-competitive broadband Internet access practices.

In a report to the FCC titled, "An Open Access Business Model For Cable Systems," author Stephen Heins, director of marketing for Oshkosh, WI-based ISP NorthNet, called for Time Warner to rescind the requirements it is placing on ISPs to provide independent cable Internet access.

The white paper was drafted after William Kennard, FCC chairman, asked for a business model ISPs and cable network owners could abide by to ensure open access standards for cable Internet services.

The conference call, held Oct. 19, was also attended by Gene Crick, Texas ISP Association executive director, David Robertson, vice president of south Texas-based ISP STIC.net and Douglas Hanson, Rocky Mountain Internet president and chief executive officer. Heins expects the other three ISP representatives will give its blessing to the ex parte filing, as fair and open access for all is the end result of the report.

"The cable companies should certainly be allowed to manage their networks to ensure service quality," Heins said. "But they should not be allowed to dictate and control the business of unaffiliated ISPs, and they certainly should not be allowed to charge outlandish prices for using they network."

The report calls for Time Warner to adopt the standards as part of an open access policy based in part on recommendations made by AOL to the city of San Francisco last year. The major points in the report call for Time Warner to:

  • ISPs should be free to provide any service that is compatible with the chosen form of interconnection without prior approval from the network owner
  • The network owners should make technically feasible and reasonable modification to accommodate new functionalities and be compensated for the costs incurred
  • ISPs should be required to provide only the minimum technical information necessary to implement new functionalities and services in a manner that does not disrupt network management
  • Information for network management purposes should not be used by network owners to develop competing services
  • Data passing to or from a customer to a competitive Internet Service Provider shall be considered private and proprietary and may be logged or analyzed by the cable network provider for network management only

The term sheet, a copy of which was given to internetnews.com staff last month, gave Time Warner sweeping powers over the financial, marketing and network operations of individual ISPs on its cable network.

In addition to a $50,000 upfront fee, ISPs would have to pass on to Time Warner 75 percent of its subscription revenues and 25 percent of its cable-access, Web hosting and e-commerce advertising.

Moreover, the cable network owner would have direct control over the customer, setting the termination policy, handling the billing and enforcing standards.

"Cable companies have proven they will not provide truly nondiscriminatory access voluntarily," Hein said in his report. "If the remarkably competitive and innovative environment of the narrow-band Internet is to be preserved on the broadband Internet, the Commission must make open access a binding obligation. The combination of offline content, the dominant narrow-band Internet service provider and the nation's second largest cable operator in the AOL Time Warner merger makes the need for an open access obligation especially critical as a condition of the merger."

Hein points to a history of words and deeds Time Warner and AOL officials have made in the past year that belie the company's official statements of competitive willingness to the FCC.

"There's a