FCC Files for National Broadband Policy

William E. Kennard, Federal Communications
Commission
chairman, has asked the FCC general counsel to prepare a
brief that would establish a
national broadband policy.

In May, a federal district court ruled that the city government of
Portland, Ore., has the authority to force its cable TV company to open
access to independent Internet services providers. AT&T-owned Tele-Communications Inc., is appealing the
decision.

In a speech made before the Federal Communications Bar Association Northern
California Chapter on Tuesday, Kennard said the FCC would file the brief
acting as a friend of the court.

Kennard said that he was disturbed by the effect that local franchising
authorities could have on national broadband policy and on the deployment
of broadband services if they did not leave the market to develop
regulation-free.

“Unfortunately, a number of local franchising authorities have decided not
to follow this de-regulatory, pro-competitive approach. Instead, they have
begun imposing their own local open access provisions,” Kennard said. “It
is in the national interest that we have a national broadband policy.”

Kennard stated that the FCC has the authority to set national broadband
policy and that a non-regulatory approach is the best way to let the
broadband industry flourish.

John Raposa, GTE associate general
council, said that the FCC brief will have little bearing on the issue
before the federal court.

“Filing a brief that says there ought to be a national policy on open
access does not address in any manner the legal issue before the court,”
Raposa said. “The issue before the court is preemption. Unless the FCC
would come in and attempt to preempt cities we do not believe their action
is going to have any effect on the court of appeals.”

David Olson, cable commission director for the city of Portland said he
respects the opinions of the FCC and the commissioners, but that they are
wrong on this issue.

“I think the commissioners are wrong in their view that inaction is the
solution,” Olson said. He added that “we remain sufficiently confident in our
authority and the strength of our arguments that the judge will uphold the
Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling.”

Kennard said competition between cable modem and digital subscriber line
services is essential to accelerating broadband access.

He noted that in May 1997, @Home
launched cable modem service in Phoenix and that four months later US West launched DSL in the same market.
Kennard said competitive launches of DSL and cable modem services have
dotted the landscape of broadband deployment since its origin.

“The competitive pattern is set, and it works,” Kennard said. “We can have
openness and competition by allowing this market to develop unfettered by
regulation.”

Raposa said that he was astounded that the FCC Chairman had become an
advocate for the cable industry.

“I think the FCC is essentially acting as a mouthpiece for the cable
industry in this regard. They obviously agree with the cable industry’s
arguments and they are in fact advocating on behalf of the cable industry.”

In the meantime, the FCC will continue its active monitoring of the
broadband marketplace.

Later this week, the FCC’s Local and State Government Advisory Committee
will be meeting with senior staff members to hear their concerns. FCC staff
members plan to explain to local franchising authorities why the FCC
believes it is not in the national interest to regulate the broadband industry.

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