Protest Planned During FCC Merger Review

The forthcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions are not the
only gatherings bracing for massive protests.

The Consumer Project on Technology
plans to rally a massive protest at the Federal Communications Commission meeting
scheduled for Thursday.

The Green Party’s presidential nominee, Ralph Nader, founded the CPT in
1995.

Dubbed the “Protect the Internet” protest, the CPT is organizing a rally to
focus on the FCC’s continued refusal to establish a national broadband
policy in support of “open access.”

The July 27th demonstration will take place outside of the FCC’s offices
and coincide with the Commission’s hearing on the proposed America Online Inc. and Time-Warner Inc. merger.

CPT contends that most residential consumers currently have two choices for
broadband Internet connectivity, digital subscriber line access or cable
modem services. The group argues that DSL operators, because they employ
telephone lines, are required by the FCC to open up their networks to
competing Internet service providers. Meanwhile, plants are not obliged to
share their networks with rivals.

Last week, American Online and Time Warner
announced they would test a shared cable system in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier
in the year, [email protected] released its
“Memorandum of Understanding” with the approval of AT&T Corp. stating that the
companies supported “open access” and would provide competitive access on
its networks when an exclusive contract expires in two years.

[email protected] lended credibility to the memo by signing
an agreement with MindSpring
Enterprises Inc.
to share its high-speed cable connectivity when
exclusivity is no longer an issue for the firm.

CPT accepts that cable operators have announced a variety of plans to build
an infrastructure that would share ISP access, but that it would provide
different levels of service for their banded services over rival content
providers.

According to the CPT, the history of the cable service is to discriminate
in favor of affiliated services, and to use bottlenecks to influence the
distribution of video content. Now cable operators want the freedom to
speed up access to affiliated or favored Internet content, while
deliberately putting others on a slower service.

The group cites a 1999 Cisco Systems
Inc.
study titled, Controlling Your Network – A Must for Cable
Operators.
According to Cisco , the primary firm
providing hardware and software for the proprietary cable platforms system
operators will be able to restrict the incoming push broadcasts from
competitors as well as subscribers’ outgoing access to the push information
site to discourage its use.

While the Cisco White Paper is of interest to cable operators, modem-based
routing is wholly capable of performing the same type of packet
prioritization, regardless of the communications platform used for
transport over the Internet.

James Love, CDT director, said the FCC should not trust big business.
Federal regulators should do their jobs and protect consumers and the
Internet.

“I think the FCC’s approach is we trust AT&T, we trust Time Warner, we
trust AOL,” Love said. “We feel the government needs to do their job and
start protecting protect open access and the Internet.”

Love added that the rush to deploy broadband systems has placed the
regulatory cart before the horse.

“I think the idea that you build a network and sort out the regulatory
issues later is a mistake,” Love said. “In this case the FCC has to start
out with

a strong state about non-discriminatory access to cable systems.
The policy should lead, not follow.”

In June, FCC Chairman William Kennard indicated that he favored competitive
access to cable systems, and that he believed AT&T and AOL would do the
right thing to respond wisely to market forced.

The FCC also announced it would set the groundwork for to review cable
communications competition this year.

News Around the Web