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Current threat to the Open Access to the Internet

Cable and phone companies plan to offer broadband Internet access through their high speed pipes to millions of American homes.  However, gaining monopoly power over such access, they can impose various restrictions on the users.  For example, cable companies are refusing to allow independent internet access providers ( ISPs) to provide service to broadband cable    customers on the same terms and conditions as they do their own affiliated ISPs (such as @Home and Roadrunner).

Company(ies) enjoying control of broadband access lines can also dominate Internet content, thusly threatning the very basis of Internet -- openness and diversity.  For consumers, the threat in this model is that the broadband network will be a closed, proprietary network, and will differ dramatically from the open, non-discriminatory access they enjoy today.

  What is "broadband" and why is it important?

In layman's terms, broadband is the high speed connection to the internet through the cable.  Currenly many people connect to the internet through telephone lines, narrowband modems, but cable (broadband) connections to the internet are becoming more and more common. We are at a critical point in the development of the Internet with the move from narrowband, circuit switched services to broadband access to the Internet.

In more techincal terms, broadband is a type of data transmission in which a single medium (wire) can carry several channels at once. To achieve broadband content delivery, the bandwidth of the medium is shared in order to carry more than one signal. In contrast, baseband, or narrowband,  transmission allows only one signal at a time. The entire bandwidth of the medium is used to carry a single digital data signal, thus limiting the medium to a single form of data transmission. Most communication between computers, including the majority of local-area networks today use baseband communications.

In the future, broadband access will enable consumers to be constantly connected to the Internet at a speed one hundred times faster than today's dial up modems. This superfast pipeline will facilitate convenient interactive communication through video, voice and data services.  Accelerating the distribution of broadband networks will bring many new opportunities to businesses and consumers and provide a more vibrant commercial and cultural space.

bullet2.gif (878 bytes)  Why is it important to keep the access to broadband open?

Cable  monopoly over high speed cable access to the Internet threatens the fundamental openness of the Internet space.  Openness, diversity, and consumer choice are the distinctive values of the Internet which have allowed it to develop and flourish into the Internet we have today.  Competition among Internet service providers will lower prices, spur innovation, and  advance the social and economic benefits of the Internet.

Open access is needed to ensure that broadband technology is available at a low cost for all consumers.  Open access environment promotes competition and allows for fast Internet service at an  affordable cost and is essential for development of Internet.

If cable companies suceed in gaining monopoly control over broadband access to the Internet, they will place restrictions on our use of the internet.  The consequences consequences of these restrictions on competition include higher prices, less consumer choice, stifled innovation, and constraints on the free speech and free flow of information and electronic commerce.

For example, AT&T plans to offer access to the Internet through its cable lines only to those consumers who choose Mindspring as their ISP.  Thus, if AT&T has the monopoly on the cable access in a certain area, consumers that want to use another service provider, will have to pay twice -- once for the cable company's ISP, Mindspring in this case, and once for the service provider they want.

  Benefits of improved access to the Internet to the nation’s economy.

E-commerce is quickly becoming a powerful force in the nation’s economy. In 1998, consumer sales over the Internet totaled approximately $10 billion, while business-to-business sales reached $43 billion that same year. It has been predicted that by 2003, consumer sales will surpass $100 billion and business-to-business will equal $1.3 trillion. Securing affordable access to high-speed networks for all businesses and consumers will further this economic growth and ensure that all consumers have access to the benefits of the growth. (Source:  iAdvance)

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