Martin Stresses Unblocked Internet

Las Vegas -- Consumers should “have unfettered access to all [of] the Internet,” Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said Friday.

“You can't have consumers being blocked” from individual services or parts of the Internet, Martin said in an on-stage discussion of public-policy issues at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show here.

His comments to Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro came as developers of new sites on the Web -- which increasingly make use of video and moving images, not just text and graphics -- expressed concern that their services might be regarded as competition to the multiple channels of service offered by cable and telephone companies on their TV networks.

The fear: Cable operators, phone operators and others that control the actual wires that carry Internet content at high speeds into homes across the country would block the competitors' content in order to preserve their own video interactive businesses.

But Martin said he was “hesitant” about instigating a rule-making procedure at the commission at this point, adding that he lacks evidence that content is being blocked.

The Wall Street Journal Friday reported that large phone companies such as BellSouth Corp. hope to start charging Google Inc. (, Vonage Holdings Corp. and other Internet-content providers for high-quality delivery of music, movies and the like over their networks. The implication is that if they didn't pay up, their services might not be allowed to operate on those networks.

When asked about the report, Martin said he did not know enough to comment usefully on it. He added that the commission should look at setting a “baseline for access” to Internet content. In the meantime, he said, he will adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude on the issue.