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FCC: Cable modems an information service

Wed, 03/13/2002 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

The cable industry claimed a victory today when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted 3-1 to classify cable modem service as an information service.

The unregulated category means cablecos, as in the past, won't be compelled to open their lines to competitors unless specifically ordered to do so.

The industry was keeping a close eye on the issue in front of the FCC, which could have reclassified the service, forcing cable companies to open their lines to competitors, as do the incumbent Bells.

FCC Chair Michael Powell told the Associated Press the commission was following Congress' lead, and based the ruling on statute, rather than consequences.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association had urged the FCC to retain its hands-off policy, which had "been a vital spur to the pace of cable's broadband deployment," NCTA President and CEO Robert Sachs told a gathering in Washington, D.C., this week. "As a result of a deregulatory environment, cable's broadband infrastructure and services have evolved rapidly."

NCTA this week released a survey showing the industry's $55 billion, six-year investment in network upgrades resulted in high-speed Internet deployment to 70 million households.

Sachs says today's decision "establishes a needed national policy framework for cable high-speed Internet services. The classification of cable modem service as an 'information service,' and not a telecommunications service, sends a strong signal that cable Internet services will be able to continue to develop in a business environment that favors competition over regulation, and encourages new investment.

"Given the vigorous competition between cable modem, digital subscriber line, and satellite-delivered broadband Internet services, a policy of regulatory restraint is particularly appropriate," he says.

SBC Communications Senior VP-FCC Patricia Hill-Ardoin, says the action "reinforced the urgent need to remove the regulatory disparity that is denying American consumers the benefits of real competition in the broadband marketplace.

"By now indicating that both cable modem broadband service and DSL Internet access services are 'information services,' the commission moves closer to putting all broadband services on the same regulatory footing," she says, in a statement. "It makes sense that similar services are classified and regulated in the same way."

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