Cable won a big victory last week. A federal appeals court, overturning a federal district court, ruled that local franchising authorities cannot require cable franchises to open their systems to competing Internet access providers as a cost of doing business. If open access is anyone's call, said the court, it is the FCC's. And this commission is not inclined to force open the access floodgates at the price of what Chairman Bill Kennard has said would be "chaos in broadband."
The decision was also a victory for Kennard. He believes, and rightly so, that 30,000-plus different gauges of track (the approximate number of local franchising authorities) is no way to run a railroad. To speed the rollout of local services, he has said, regulators need to keep their mitts off cable's high-speed data services. We agree. Kennard has also stressed that cable, for its part, needs to act responsibly with that freedom and develop an open-access tradition that mirrors the growth of the Internet. Of course, the chairman has that big stick of merger approval-at least for now-to back up his soft-spoken advice. Even without it, his counsel is worth heeding.