Case Renews Call for Open Cable Access

America Online Inc. Chairman Steve Case late Wednesday renewed his call for cable operators to open their networks to Internet service providers in the name of consumer choice.

According to Bloomberg News, in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California, Case called on cable companies to allow competing Internet providers to open their broadband networks to other ISPs just as conventional phone companies sell access to Internet providers.

AOL has been heavily lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to open cable networks to competing ISPs, a move he said would spread the proliferation of high-speed Internet access. AOL and other providers worry that their customers will leave and go to other ISPs, often cable companies or subsidiaries of regional phone companies, if they aren’t allowed access to high-speed networks.

Last month, the FCC said it will not require cable operators to open their networks to competitors although it did hint it will revisit the issue. Cable operators say they have always given consumers the ability to use additional online services on top of the services they offer. However, Case said that doesn’t go far enough.

“The cable industry’s message to consumers is pretty simple. If you want high-speed Internet access over cable lines, you must buy the Internet service we own before you can buy the Internet service of your choice,” he said.

Case said if cable companies did open their networks, they will attract new investments which will enable them to more quickly recoup large expenditures many have incurred to upgrade their networks for high-speed data and other new services.

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