Feeds

AT&T Comcast says customers will have ISP ‘choice’

Regulatory pitch

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

AT&T Comcast, the company that will form from the merger of AT&T Broadband and Comcast Corp, Friday outlined its intention to give cable customers access to unaffiliated ISPs, but stopped short of committing to fully open networks,

Kevin Murphy writes

.

In a document filed with the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing the merger, the companies said: "AT&T Comcast is fully committed to negotiating mutually beneficial service agreements with internet service providers, so that its cable customers will have a choice of ISPs."

The companies hope to show that the merger will not adversely affect competition in the US broadband internet market. Together, the companies service about a quarter of the 10 million broadband-connected homes in America, they said, compared to AOL Time Warner Inc's 2 million. The company will be the largest cable operator in the US.

The companies are fearful that regulators will approve the $120bn merger with conditions that force it to open its cable to competitors on "government-mandated terms". This is what happened when AOL bought Time Warner.

Both firms have started to ink commercial agreements with unaffiliated ISPs to show regulators this is not necessary.

"Both AT&T and Comcast already have ample market incentives to make commercially reasonable, customer-friendly arrangements with unaffiliated ISPs," the companies said. "Given the need to compete with DSL and other comparable offerings, AT&T Broadband and Comcast have significant incentives to offer their customers a choice of ISPs."

AT&T Broadband already has a deal in place with EarthLink Inc, finalized last month, under which it will provide broadband access to AT&T customers in Boston and Seattle. Comcast announced an access deal in February with United Online Inc, owner of NetZero and Juno brands.

Many details of the two deals were not revealed. It appears as if EarthLink's is more conventionally an "open access" deal, where it actually provides much of the infrastructure and support, while United Online will just rebrand and market a Comcast-operated service in return for a slice of the subscription fee.

According to sources close to the deals, AT&T agreed to allow EarthLink onto its network more than two years ago. At the time the cable company was bound by an exclusivity arrangement with the now defunct Excite@Home Corp, but said EarthLink could start offering services on ATT cable in 2002.

The deal was evidently hard-won, and there are no announced plans to scale the partnership beyond the initial two cities. In both the Comcast/United deal and the ATT/EarthLink deal, the companies made vague noises about expanding rollouts and bringing in additional ISPs, but gave no specifics.

It now transpires Comcast is also conducting a technical trial of EarthLink on its cable in New Jersey. AT&T Broadband conducted technical trials of multiple ISPs on its cable in Boulder, Colorado, last year, with EarthLink, Juno, WorldNet and Excite@Home.

WorldNet is of course AT&T's in-house ISP, and Excite@Home is dead, which leaves Juno (now United Online) and EarthLink, both of which seem set to provide services on AT&T cable in at least some markets. It is unknown if the company is in talks or trials with other ISPs.

The key to the choice "commitment" outlined in Friday's FCC filings is the phrase "subject to negotiation of mutually beneficial terms". Many believe that only the big national ISPs with significant financial clout, such as EarthLink, can benefit from market-regulated cable access, leaving the hundreds of local and regional ISPs out in the cold.

EarthLink itself is among many ISPs and consumer groups fighting for government regulations that would force all cable firms to open their networks on a non-discriminatory basis. A recent FCC ruling confirmed that cable services should not be subject to the same regulatory framework as DSL, meaning no change in the status quo. EarthLink is among those filing a Court of Appeals challenge to that ruling.

© ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins
Who will save the systems from the men and women who save the systems from you?
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Ofcom snatches 700MHz off digital telly, hands it to mobile data providers
Hungry mobe'n'slab-waving Blighty swallows spectrum
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.