Copps: Broadband Fight Part of Larger Conflict

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The fight over cable broadband access is the third front in a war for America’s communications industry, Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps told the New America Foundation Thursday.

Three days after a federal court struck down the FCC’s decision not to impose Internet-service-provider-access rules on cable-modem service, Copps said the court fight is part of a larger conflict that also encompasses media-ownership limits and access to telephone infrastructure.

Broadband access "is the next great battle of the same continuing struggle" against giant media corporations’ attempt to control electronic content and its distribution, Copps said. He called for a federal policy aimed at preventing owners of telecommunications "choke points" from closing networks to unaffiliated content and applications.

Recent examples of radio stations denying airplay to artists and telephone digital-subscriber-line providers losing access to residential telephone customers are "part of the same phenomenon" that leads many to fear that cable operators will refuse to carry movies and content from unaffiliated providers on their broadband platforms.

Cable lobbyists countered that there is no need for anti-discrimination rules in order to assure "network neutrality" to various content.

First, they said, there is no evidence that operators are discriminating against unaffiliated Net content. Also, Microsoft Corp., Yahoo! Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and others that are the proponents of "Net-neutrality" rules regularly engage in the type of conduct they oppose from broadband providers.

Copps’ speech was lauded by Voices for Choices, a think tank backed by AT&T Corp. and competitors of regional Bell operating companies as "a strongly worded speech in defense of the Internet's traditional openness."

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