Broadband Briefings

Published by NetAction Issue No. 2 September 13, 1999
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A Closer Look at Cable Broadband
About Broadband Briefings

A Closer Look at Cable Broadband

In a new analysis of the debate over access to high-speed cable Internet service, NetAction Advisory Board member Dr. Robert Jacobson argues that the important issue for decision makers is not the current controversy over "open" access to broadband cable technology, but the need to establish a sound foundation for long-term communications and information policy.

NetAction's latest white paper predicts that the current controversy over cable broadband access will prove short-lived since it is based largely on hypothetical positions. The complete white paper is available on NetAction's web site at:

Bob Jacobson is a longtime telecommunications and information policy consultant. He prepared the white paper as part of NetAction's "Bring Us Broadband" campaign to promote rapid and widespread deployment of affordable high-speed Internet service

NetAction is making the white paper available to Internet activists as a tool for educating local, state, and Congressional decision makers. The complete document can be downloaded and printed in PDF, RTF, or Word format. We especially urge readers to share the white paper with local franchise authorities in communities where local phone monopolies and America Online seeking to impose conditions on the transfer of a cable franchise. (Franchise transfers are being considered for approval in many communities throughout the U.S. as a result of AT&T's purchase of TCI's cable system.)

In the white paper, NetAction takes a close look at the role of local telephone companies in promoting open access to cable broadband.

In the near future, cable systems that serve as many as 60 to 70% of all households will be able to offer local phone service in competition with the traditional monopoly phone service providers. This has thrown the local phone companies into a panic, and they have launched a two-pronged campaign in an attempt to forestall competition.

First they have accelerated the roll out of their own high-speed data service, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and dropped the price dramatically wherever cable broadband offers a competitive alternative. This benefits consumers and proves that competition is working.

But local phone companies have adopted the open access mantra in order to deflect attention from their own refusal to open their networks to local phone competition. If open access requirements are imposed by local authorities, cable operators will slow the deployment of broadband. This will help the local phone companies retain monopoly control of local service, and will ultimately result in higher prices and fewer options for high-speed Internet access.

In the white paper, NetAction takes a close look at the technology, the market, and the regulatory issues, and makes some pragmatic recommendations that are intended to promote rapid and widespread deployment of affordable broadband data services over the next 12-15 months.

Our recommendations include:

Regulatory forbearance
NetAction believes it is too early to impose a regulatory structure on new technologies, and urges regulators at all levels of government to resist the temptation to prematurely impose conditions on deployment of new technology.
Policy convergence
Recognizing that the Internet and other networked media defy traditional jurisdictional boundaries, NetAction urges federal, state, and local authorities to work together when and if it proves necessary to address policy issues.
Inspiring, socially rewarding policy goals
Rather than dictating regulations, NetAction urges authorities to create incentives that encourage and inspire the private sector to work with the public to ensure the successful deployment of diverse technologies.

Comments about the white paper should be sent to Bob Jacobson at: .

About Broadband Briefings

Broadband Briefings is a free electronic newsletter, published by NetAction to promote policies that encourage rapid and widespread deployment of high-speed Internet access. NetAction is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, and to educating the public, policycmakers, and the media about technology policy issues.

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