A California-based Internet provider is waging its final sortie
in the battle for leased access to proprietary cable networks in the United States.
Internet Ventures Inc. filed its original petition with the
FCC on June 2. IVI invoked the “must carry” clause of the 1996 Federal
Communications Act, contending that cable operators must carry independent
Internet services on their networks under the same rules requiring cable
companies to offer subscribers all local broadcast channels.
IVI sought to open up a new legal front in the battle for open access to
cable modem networks, even though the “must-carry” provision of the
legislation has never been interpreted to apply to ISPs.
In the letter, Janke once again asked that the FCC allow conventional
Internet providers to compete with cable access providers by
invoking the leased access clause.
“Don’t regulate the Internet out of the video programming business,” Janke
said. “Your decision will open or close the Internet’s access to compete,
with cable’s program services, as Internet Video Programmers. IVPs will
either thrive or stagnate based on your decision.”
Janke informed four FCC commissioners earlier this week that leased access
to cable networks was the best way to lower consumer cable rates through
video programming competition. He also told the federal regulators that
leased access was the means by which the FCC could fulfill their mandate to
encourage competition in the marketplace.
“You can lower cable rates through video programming competition,” Janke
said. “Internet video programming, through leased access, drives lower
pricing through true diversity. It fulfills your agency’s long standing
promise to consumers and Congress, to provide us with true competition and
the widest possible diversity of video programming,” he added.
In the letter to the commissioners, Janke said the best way to accelerate
the deployment of broadband services in the U.S. is to grant IVI’s petition.
“Granting our petition will quickly provide all consumers an alternative
broadband Internet choice,” Janke said.
According to Janke, leased access would also close the gap on the digital
divide in the U.S, in reference to broadband access to the Internet from
remote and rural communities.
Leased access proponent Bill Shapiro, Vermont Department of Public Service, said that because proximity to central offices determined the
availability of Digital Subscriber Line services in his state, cable access
was the only solution for high-speed access to the Internet.
“Vermont residents can only have an affordable, universally available,
service through your of granting of leased access,” Shapiro said in support
of IVI’s petition.
Janke expects that the FCC will rule on the IVI petition for leased access
sometime within the next two weeks. However slim the chances are that the
FCC will grant their petition, Janke remains guardedly optimistic.
Janke commended the commissioners for their recent media cross-ownership
ruling that broadened the opportunities for ownership of broadcasting
facilities, but cautioned the federal regulators that an unfavorable
decision could stunt the growth of broadband access to the Internet.
“Only recently, you approved revised Media Cross-Ownership Rules that
worked to the benefit of the cable industry,” Janke said. “If you now
decide to exclude a technology not contemplated in the 1984 Communications
Act, you arbitrarily choose to look backward to 1984 this time, instead of
“You will retard broadband Internet growt
h and will increase the cost of
cable broadband Internet to the public you have been selected to serve,”
Janke said. “I respectfully submit that the people of the United States
In related news, the demand for “open access” to cable networks continues
to press forward in several areas of the United States.
Late Tuesday, Culver City, Calif., joined the fight for open access,
when Mayor Richard Marcus indicated that the community was interested in
mandating shared access as part of their local cable franchise.
In a regular city council meeting, Marcus said “we are not interested in
regulating the Internet, we are interested in regulating our [cable]
franchise as the law allows us to do.”
In a 3-2 vote, the council decided that local cable consumers would benefit most from open competition among high-speed cable access providers.
Rich Bond, openNET coalition
co-director, applauded both municipalities’ actions to mandate open access
in their localities. Bond said the Virginia vote affirmed that open access
is good for all parties concerned.
“With this vote, they have affirmed that open access is good for Virginia
consumers, good for investment and technically feasible,” Bond said.
“Momentum is clearly on the side of open access.”