Cox Doesn't Block Websites, Says Esser

Cox Communications President Patrick Esser says Senator Ron Wyden was way off base in a reference to Cox he used in a letter published over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal

In arguing for strong network-neutrality language in the Senate franchise reform bill, Wyden suggested Cox was blocking customer access to Web sites, one of the fears of the proponents of network neutrality, which is a broad term applied to preventing discimination in the provision of Internet access.

That concern has been growing among the computer community--Google, Micorsoft--and among anti-media consolidation activists since last year's FCC decision that networks, cable and telephone, did not have to open their wires to unaffiliated Internet service providers. Esser says there were some software problems, but no calculated strategy and that network neutrality backers are "crying wolf" by suggesting there is an access problem that needs a legislative fix.

The full text of the hand-delivered letter is below:

Dear Senator Wyden:

In your June 17 letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, you cite an unfortunate and manifestly false example of discrimination by Cox in your defense of Internet “neutrality.”

Some Cox Communications High Speed Internet customers are having a problem accessing Craig’s List. A few folks have mistaken it as a sign that Cox is blocking access to the site. That’s completely not the case. It’s a software issue related to how security software developed by Authentium interprets Craig’s List’s initial packet connections, resulting in a very slow connection for some users. It’s unfortunate, of course, but still only a software issue — not a deliberate attempt to block this popular site. A short-term fix is available and a permanent solution will soon be deployed by the software provider. The issue also was fully explained in a June 14 article in The Wall Street Journal, with the conclusion: “turns out it was an incompatibility problem between Craig’s list and Cox’s security software that is being remedied.”

Had your staff chosen to research the facts in the public domain, they would have discovered the truth: Cox Communications does not and will not block its customers’ access to any legal web site.

Further, as the FCC agrees, broadband service providers must be free to manage their networks to ensure their customers have a positive experience. The phenomenal growth of the Internet continues, creating serious challenges for network owners. Our service has been recognized as the best in the business by both JD Power and PC Magazine. With our focus on customer service, we want to give our customers the best Internet experience possible. Broadband providers are rightfully concerned that proponents of network neutrality are casting such a wide net that the ability of providers to effectively manage the traffic on their networks could be impeded.

Net neutrality regulation would chill private innovation and investment in broadband networks. As more users use more bandwidth intensive applications, we have to continue to invest in our network to keep up with increasing demand. Regulation would force standardization and only dampen the incentive to invest in networks.

Net neutrality proponents should stop crying wolf. Despite the hype, there’s no evidence of a real problem, no consensus on what the potential problems might be, and no consensus on how to solve the hypothetical problems. Innovation has and will continue to propel the Internet in new directions.  The marketplace will drive demand for advanced services and classes of offerings. Ultimately, the competitive marketplace—not government regulation—will dictate what’s best for Internet customers.

Pat Esser
President, Cox Communications

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.