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FCC must treat cable firms the same as telcos

Not a happy regulator

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Why is it that all the Telco DSL providers in the US work hand in glove with ISP’s, but so few of the cable TV companies deliver their services through ISPs?

Much of it has to do with the FCC having made a ruling that said that the cable firms are a completely different kettle of fish and are not categorized as communications companies, but as information providers.

Although there is no mandate forcing Telcos to offer open access to ISPs, history has taught them that failure to do so would probably result in them being ordered to. As a result the US Telcos have enlisted the help of ISPs to up their market penetration.

Cable firms have been able to ignore ISPs because of their previously privileged status, more or less outside of the FCC remit.

A US court has now called that decision into question in the Court of Appeals, potentially handing a victory to the ISPs after their legal actions have brought the matter to light.

The only stumbling block is that the FCC plans to appeal the decision, strangely suggesting that this decision in some way interferes with its aim to develop a national policy on highspeed Internet services.

Surely the opposite is true. When two vested interests offer the same service, it makes sense that they are encumbered with the same rules, but the US cable TV companies have often enjoyed better treatment at the hands of the FCC than their now arch-rivals, the local
telephone operators.

The court decision was not definitive, but it re-ranked cable broadband in the same category as
DSL delivered broadband and the FCC must treat it in the same way when making new rules.

The FCC had cable TV down as information providers which are subject to far less stringent regulation.

The FCC will now have to decide how to treat both telephone operators and cable firms and may now need to open up access to ISPs and other competitors, to their networks. At the moment the FCC stance is that it will use any carrot to get network operators to upgrade their networks and offer more advanced services. It feels that cable operators have made the shift to digital networks, and that Telcos have dragged their heels.

© Copyright 2003 Rethink Research

But the only reason that cable operators have made expensive upgrades is due to the reward of being able to offer three services over them, TV, local phone connections and high speed internet lines, not because they are in accord with the FCC’s aim to upgrade US networks.

Some cable companies have seen the decision coming and have begun to invite participation into their networks anyway, with Comcast opening its doors to America Online and Earthlink, as well as local ISPs.

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