The cable industry will open its networks to competing Internet service providers because it is a "competitive necessity," said AT & T executive VP Jim Cicconi at a Media Institute panel in Washington Thursday. "There's a large consensus that open access is sort of the 'right' approach inside the cable industry," agreed George Vradenburg, AOL senior vice president. Because cable companies believe the market will resolve the open-access debate, the industry remains adamant that the government should not step in. AOL Time Warner and AT & T, both of whom have large mergers pending, have issued public documents promising open access. Meanwhile, the next two largest MSOs-Comcast and Cox-say they will negotiate open-access terms and conditions with any ISP that comes along once their exclusive agreements with cable-backed ISPs @Home and Road Runner expire in two or three years.