Together, they say, they'd be one of the county's top 10 cable operators.

Thirteen broadband network providers pooled their $5 billion, 29,000 miles of fiber and 1 million customer clout, and formed the Broadband Service Providers Association to promote open access. The facilities-based providers are targeting three issues in the competitive broadband industry, a spokesman says.

"There are issues out there we'd like a voice in," says association Chair Rodger Johnson, who also is CEO of Knology Inc., based near Atlanta.

Washington, D.C.-based BSPA will focus first on nondiscriminatory access to programming content, construction rights of way and multiple dwelling units, he says.

As far as content, the industry wants access to programming from such large companies as AOL Time Warner. BSPA also would like open access to construction rights of way because its fiber optic cables are attached to utility poles or underground conduits. If incumbents don't allow the attachments on a timely basis, he says, it hurts business.

Likewise, apartment owners usually contract with one provider, and residents don't get choices for cable or Internet. Johnson says the group would like open access to that market, as well.

Key to the group's arguments, he says, is that they are facilities-based groups and have invested great amounts of capital in their networks. "We're betting serious money to serve those customers," he says.

Johnson says BSPA isn't taking any positions except for its initial three, but cautions the inustry "to get all the facts," regarding The Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001 (Tauzin-Dingell bill), potentially scheduled for a decision this month.

The founders started the organization now because the industry has reached a critical mass, Johnson says. Between them, members claim 29,000 miles of fiber optic network, $5 billion in invested capital and 1 million customers, each of whom averages two network connections.

The core group represents the United States geographically, he says. The member companies are "using our own staffs to attack the issues," he says. "We've got committee members assigned to different functions. We do have bylaws, a charter, member requirements, things of that nature." Thus far, the association is funded by member donations.

Other founders include WideOpenWest, ClearSource Inc., RCN Corp. and Starpower Communications.

Presently, the organization can be reached through Knology's public relations director, Darena Huguley, at (706) 634-2500 or at