Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin is worried about mounting rumors of a proposed “two-tiered” broadband
delivery system by the Baby Bells.
Under the plan being quietly pushed in Congress by the Bells, broadband
providers would be able to charge Internet companies, such as Yahoo, Google
and Amazon, an extra fee to deliver high-bandwidth content and services to
Martin told a Consumer Electronics Show crowd in Las Vegas on Friday that
broadband providers have the right to sell differentiated services, but
consumers should have the ability to access any legal content on the
Internet companies and consumer advocates did not question the right of the
Bells to charge a fee, but they are concerned the proposed pricing scheme
will ultimately price out smaller firms hoping to deliver high-speed
“It is critical that consumers have unfettered access to the Internet and
all the services it provides,” said Martin. “Washington could be concerned
if providers were to block access to information and sites traditionally
available on the Internet.”
In August, the FCC issued a statement of principle that consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet
content of their choice, run applications and services of their choice and
plug in and run legal devices of their choice.
The FCC also said consumers
have a right to competition among network, application, service and content providers.
“Consumers have demanded this ability, and cable and telephone companies
have delivered it,” Martin said in August. “In a competitive marketplace,
providers must do so. They provide a service consumers want or they do not
The FCC’s statement of principle, however, has no force of law.
In his Las Vegas appearance on Friday, Martin dodged questions on whether
service providers can cut financial deals with network operators for higher
speeds than similar providers can afford.
Hoping to avoid what is quickly becoming known among deregulatory advocates
as “anticipatory” rulemaking, Martin said FCC action isn’t necessary in the
absence of any real evidence of network operator blocking access to some
parts of the Internet.