Broadband anti-discrimination rules proposed by Amazon.com Inc. (www.amazon.com), The Walt Disney Co. and
Microsoft Corp. came under attack from National Cable & Telecommunications
Association chief Robert Sachs Tuesday.
Regulation "in search of a problem" might serve giant content providers, but
it "never serves the interests of consumers," Sachs said at the annual Washington, D.C.,
conference of state utility regulators. "Microsoft and others want to use the
government to leverage negotiations with network providers and others to get
better business deals."
Sachs was criticizing demands by the Coalition of Broadband Users and
Innovators -- which also counts eBay Inc. (www.ebay.com) andd advocacy group Media Access Project as
members -- for rules ensuring "unfettered" high-speed access to the Internet.
Individually, Amazon.com has also suggested rules requiring owners of high-speed
networks to be barred from restricting consumer access to Internet content or
sites unless the networks are open to three or more unaffiliated Internet-service
The Federal Communications Commission is putting the finishing touches on
permanent rules for cable-broadband service.
Bolstering cable's hopes for preserving a current "hands-off" approach, the
FCC last week eliminated rules requiring owners of high-speed telephone
digital subscriber lines to lease access to competing Internet providers.
Sachs said the anti-discrimination regulation sought by Amazon.com and its
partners will discourage investments in broadband infrastructure and slow
deployment across the country.
Some restrictions on consumer usage -- particularly higher fees for large users
of capacity -- will be necessary because a few "bandwidth hogs" can bog down an
entire local network. "Bandwidth management and a degree of oversight of
consumer applications is required to preserve the quality of service," he said.
Cable's critics countered that system operators really want to restrict access
to online movies and other high-capacity services that compete with cable-television programming or cable-affiliated Web sites.
In contrast to his opposition to new regulations on
cable operators, Sachs urged regulators to regulate consumers' "wi-fi"
broadband connections. Increasingly, broadband aficionados obtain free broadband
connections in office buildings, retail shops and residential dwellings by
exploiting "hot spots" created when wireless devices link PCs and other digital
equipment. Sachs called on the regulators to prohibit nonsubscribers from
tapping into hot spots outside a user's residence. "This is no different than
Microsoft prohibiting me from sharing Windows software I've purchased with other
residents of my apartment building," he added.