ISPCON Rallies Around Open Access

The nation’s independent Internet service providers (ISPs) will meet in Washington over the next three days for their semi-annual ISPCON meeting with much of the focus on a recent court decision that may breath new life into the beleaguered industry.

While independent dialup ISPs were once a dominant business presence in the aftermath of the 1996 Telecommunications Act that required the incumbent telephone carriers share their lines with ISPs, the move to broadband has left them struggling for entry into the high-speed market.

Through Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rulings, the cable companies, which dominate consumer broadband distribution, have been exempted from leasing their lines to ISPs. The incumbent Bells have also won favorable decisions from the FCC to effectively keep ISPs from leasing DSL lines.

Other high-speed platforms such as broadband over electric power lines, satellite, and third and fourth generation wireless mobile technology offer little immediate hope for independent ISPs as they are still years away from being commercially viable.

Late last month, however, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to review its decision rejecting the FCC’s position that cable modems are an information service. The decision means cable companies may be required to provide independent ISPs access to their networks on non-discriminatory terms and at reasonable prices. Both the cable companies and the FCC are expected to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Hoping to capitalize on the recent court ruling, a number of independent ISPs will rally Wednesday night at the IPSCON site to advance their call for open, non-discriminatory access to broadband networks. The National Internet Alliance has been established to lobby for open access.

When not organizing political rallies, the ISPs will have wall-to-wall meetings designed to find news ways to find revenue in the shrinking market, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Web hosting, wireless and other services.

Internet telephony using VoIP will likely be one of the hottest topics among the attendees. A Thursday afternoon panel of FCC staff will review current VoIP policy issues, access charges, wiretap accessibility issues and other IP-enabled service proceedings. A Friday luncheon keynote entitled Applying the Open Source Business Model to VoIP will be given by William Rich, president and CEO of Pingtel.

On Thursday evening ISPCON schedule is a session on VoIP, SIP and Open Source IP Communications. The open forum exchange discussion will feature John Todd, a VoIP networking consultant and Jeff Gerhardt, president of

Keynote speakers include Ed Thomas, Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology at the FCC, and Rich Wong general manager for Messaging and Anti-Abuse at Openwave Systems. Thomas will address wireless spectrum issues, competitive technologies and broadband services. Thomas will cover anti-spam and virus strategies.

The ISPCON show is co-produced by the Golden Group and Jupitermedia, parent company of this Web site.

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