Consumer groups seek cable access allies

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Consumer-advocacy groups are hoping to gain corporate allies in their fight
for cable access rules that would prevent owners of broadband distribution
networks from favoring their own content and applications over unaffiliated
services.

In letters to the High Tech Broadband Coalition and the Information
Technology Industry Council, the consumer groups noted that their member
companies have a vested in interest in the fight. They called for government
rules ensuring that "every telecommunications network must interconnect and
interoperate with any other network device delivering any applications, service
or content without additional charge or restriction."

Signing the appeal were the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union,
Media Access Project and the Center for Digital Democracy.

HTBC members include the Business Software Alliance, the Consumer Electronics
Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, the National Association of
Manufacturers, the Semiconductor Industry Association and the Telecommunications
Industry Association.

The ITIC represents leading U.S. providers
of information-technology products and services. AOL Time Warner Inc. -- one of the
prime targets of the consumer groups' worries -- is an ITIC member.

The consumer groups said they have received no commitments from the industry
groups but are scheduling discussions soon.

Without government access rules, they said, AOL Time Warner and other cable
conglomerates will use their control of high-speed networks to dominate Internet
content and stifle innovations.

The cable industry remains steadfastly opposed to access mandates.

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