Open Access Remains Hot Issue

The thirst for high-speed Internet access is leading several upstarts to embark on several projects as traditional rivals continue their bickering.

Colorado is the next state in the U.S. to reap the broadband Internet
access rewards of a massive cable network overbuilds by WideOpenWest LLC.

The open access cable proponent recently started construction on the
nation’s first competitive fiber optic telecommunications system in
Jefferson County, Colo.

WideOpenWest Thursday obtained regulatory approval from the Colorado Public Utilities
Commission
to provide telecommunications services over its broadband
networks throughout Colorado’s Front Range.

Mark Haverkate, WideOpenWestpresident and chief executive officer, said the
CPUC was quick to approve its application for digital services.

“The Colorado Public Utilities Commission completed their extensive review
of WideOpenWest’s financial, technical, legal and management qualifications
and approved our application expeditiously.” Haverkate said. “As a state
certified competitive telecommunications company WideOpenWest hopes to soon
provide a complete suite of digital communications services to Colorado
residents.”

WideOpenWest plans to begin service in the metropolitan areas of Denver
later this year. The firm is also overbuilding cable networks in Portland
and several Texas cities.

Unlike other cable companies currently retrofit their systems, the
WideOpenWest network operates on an open platform to provide both its
branded Internet service as well as access for competing ISP’s on a
non-discriminatory basis.

In related news, U S WEST late
Thursday accused AT&T (T) of
stunting the Internet’s growth for its continued “closed access” cable policy.

U S WEST (USW)
Chief Counsel Mark Roellig called for a meaningful dialogue to discuss
“open access” to cable systems and its potential to transform the Internet.

“The failure of the cable monopoly to open its network to competing
Internet access providers is one of the most significant obstacles to
continued growth of the Internet,” Roellig said.

Roellig said the Internet has changed the way we live, work and play over
the past few years, but that may be a thing of the past without consumer
choice of access providers.

“Without real choices in Internet providers and content, consumers will be
denied the full benefits of the information age,” Roellig said.

“Unless meaningful ‘open access’ policies are enacted at the national and
local levels, millions of Americans will continue to lose out on the
benefits of open competition among Internet providers, better products and
lower prices,” he added.

U S WEST is in the process of merging with Qwest Communications International Inc. (Q). The
combination of the two companies will create a communications powerhouse
with a market capitalization of more than $70 billion. Together, the two
firms will have more than 3 million miles of deployed fiber and 29 million
customers worldwide.

Earlier in the week, Maryland
legislators this week rejected “open access” bills before the state.

Peter Arnold, Hands off the
Internet
executive director, said open access arguments are not a good
match for the Internet economy.

“Maryland’s decision is further coalescing of the opinion that Internet
access regulations just don’t make economic sense,” Arnold said.

Six state legisl

atures in New
Hampshire
, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Idaho, Kansas, Utah, and the Minnesota Public Utilities
Commission
have struck down open access proposals already this year.

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