Los Angeles ISPs Invite FCC Chair to Chat

Four Los Angeles-area Internet service providers are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard to balance his scheduled discussions with cable executives this week, by granting them a 10-minute meeting to discuss their side of the open access debate.


Jim Pickrell of Brand X Internet,
Mario Araujo of AztecaNet, Tony
Cappelli of LA Bridge Internet and
Hossein Farmani of aNet Communications
said in a letter sent to Kennard that fairness dictates he speak with them about open access to closed cable
networks.

“We, too, would like to speak to you regarding open access,” the letter
said. “The cable industry has one perspective. As independent ISPs, we have
an entirely different perspective.”

“You will be delivering a special address at the Cable Television Association’s ‘Western
Show’ convention on Thursday morning and meeting with cable executives to
discuss the open access issue,” the letter continued. “We respectfully
request 10 minutes, or whatever time you have available, to share our views
on the open access issue.”

The foursome representing independent ISPs in the Los Angeles area said
they would meet with Kennard anywhere at any time.

“Given the amount of time you will be spending with cable company
executives during your trip, we believe this request is both fair and
reasonable. We hope and trust you will agree,” the letter said.

“All we are asking for is a level playing field,” Pickrell said. “The
Internet is flourishing today because the telephone companies are required
by law to open their lines to competition. We’d like to be given an equal
chance.”

The ISP owners have not received a response to their request.

The FCC has declined to require cable companies to open their high-speed
Internet lines to competition. As a result of federal inaction, local
municipalities across the nation have levied open-access conditions as part
of AT&T Corp.’s terms to assume TeleCommunications Inc. and MediaOne Group (
UMG)
franchises.

AT&T (T)
spelled out the details of its commitment to open access to their cable
networks in a letter sent to Kennard last week. The letter
was co-signed by AT&T and Mindspring executives,as MindSpring
(MSPG)
is set to become one of the first new AT&T Internet transport service
artners when AT&T’s exclusive contract with [email protected] (ATHM) expires in 2002.

For the most part, independent ISPs consider AT&T’s actions a stall tactic
to delay their ability to tap into closed cable systems and provide
broadband services other than proximity-limited Digital Subscriber Line access.

Open access proponent Greg Simon, OpenNET Coalition co-director,
said a more reasonable transition period for open access to AT&T’s cable
networks is to convert the closed system in a matter of months, not more
than two years.

“The OpenNet Coalition welcomes the AT&T-MindSpring agreement because it
ends the debate as to whether open access is good for business and
consumers,” Simon said. “AT&T concedes that the technology to share cable
network access is available and that deployment should take place as
quickly as possible.”

Los Angeles has been a hotbed of the open access debate since this summer
when

the Digital Coast Roundtable began lobbying members of the Los Angeles
City Council not to force cable to open their networks to competitors.

Digital Coast Inc. is a group
that represents influential new media companies in Los Angeles. The Digital
Coast Roundtable is chaired by Los Angeles’ Mayor Richard Riordan, a
staunch proponent of closed access to cable networks.

The group was formed to develop public and private partnerships with the new media industry in Los
Angeles. The group wants to promote the City of Angels as the digital
epicenter of the Internet media industry.

For many of the companies represented by the Roundtable, widespread
deployment of broadband Internet technologies is crucial to their
businesses. Digital Coast Roundtable members include Paramount Digital
Entertainment, the Disney Channel, USA Networks Interactive, NBC.com, KPMG,
Dreamworks Interactive, Sun Microsystems Inc., eToys and several members of
the Los Angeles City Council.

The group contends those local governments in Portland, Ore., and elsewhere
which decided to mandate open access to local cable networks would deter
the deployment of broadband access nationwide.

The Los Angeles council is expected to decide the issue of open access to
cable networks in the next few months.

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