BellSouth Wants Closed-Data-Network Rule

BellSouth Corp. is asking federal regulators to scrap rules that give competing Internet-service providers access to its broadband network.

The Southeast’s dominant Baby Bell said compliance with the rule was expensive and unfair because market-leading cable companies are not forced to grant mandatory access -- except for Time Warner Cable, as a result of its 2000 merger with America Online Inc.

BellSouth asked for the relief from the Federal Communications Commission in an Oct. 27 filing that included no other Bell company.

“If consumers do not need the majority of providers to open their lines to independent ISPs in order to ensure just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates and practices, it cannot possibly be the case that it is necessary that the minority providers open their lines to ensure the same thing,” BellSouth said.

As of June 2004, cable had 16.9 million high-speed-data customers, while phone companies had 11.3 million, according to FCC data cited in BellSouth’s filing.

EarthLink Inc. -- an Atlanta-based ISP with no facilities leading to consumer homes -- has 1.3 million broadband customers who connect to the service over cable and phone high-speed-data lines. FCC adoption of BellSouth’s request would eliminate EarthLink’s right to purchase wholesale access at the same rates BellSouth charges itself.

“We think this request is over the top, and we don’t expect that the FCC would grant this relief,” EarthLink vice president of law and public policy David Baker said.

In its petition, BellSouth said it would not use a favorable decision to discriminate against competing ISPs.

“BellSouth has hundreds of ISP customers and has no desire to lose the revenue created by their use of BellSouth’s broadband transmission,” the telco said.