NCTA steps up fight vs. broadband restrictions

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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is asking the Federal
Communications Commission to dismiss calls for what could be described as "open-access lite."

After the repeated failures to win access rules requiring cable companies to
open their high-speed Internet platforms to rival Internet-service providers, supporters of the idea
have switched to demanding "anti-discrimination" rules that would prevent cable
companies from restricting access to unaffiliated Web content.

But the NCTA, in a letter to FCC commissioners Tuesday, said government
anti-discrimination rules would entangle operators in regulatory disputes and
encourage cable's rivals to exploit the rules and "hobble" operators.

"Cable operators offer subscribers unrestricted access to Internet content
and the ability to run applications of their choice because customers demand
those capabilities," the trade group said.

The NCTA appeal was in response to the Microsoft Corp.- and The Walt Disney Co.-led Coalition of
Broadband Users and Innovators, formed in November to fight for
anti-discrimination rules.

Other coalition members include eBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and public-advocacy group Media Access Project.

To spur the debate, Amazon.com has submitted a plan calling for cable
companies and other infrastructure owners to be barred from impairing consumer
access to Internet content or sites.

Internet providers carried by the network owner, however, could impose
impairments so long as the network is also open to three or more unaffiliated
Internet-access providers.

If the network owner chooses not to open its network to other Internet
providers, then it would be barred from impairing consumer access.

The idea has not been endorsed by other coalition members, and the NCTA didn't
address Amazon.com's plan specifically.

Still, opposition to Amazon.com's appeal for regulation is implied, NCTA
spokesman Rob Stoddard said.

Separately Tuesday, the NCTA urged the federal appeals court in San Francisco to
endorse the FCC's designation of cable-modem service as an "information
service," which gives the commission authority to shield the business from
telephone-style access obligations.

The FCC's classification was appealed by consumer groups.

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