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Reps. Push FCC on Web-Content Access

Two House members circulated a letter that urged the Federal Communications
Commission to prevent broadband-network owners from discriminating against
Internet merchants.

The FCC is expected to decide this fall whether cable and phone companies
that offer high-speed data have to share space with unaffiliated
Internet-service providers or abide by nondiscrimination rules for the
protection of Web-based retailers that may not have financial relationships with
network owners.

Reps. Rich Boucher (D-Va.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) urged House colleagues to
sign a letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell calling on the agency to embrace
rules that ensure that Internet users "have unfettered access to the content of
their choice."

For many months, the issue has been pressed hard by a group called the
Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators, which is led by Microsoft Corp.,, Inc. The Walt Disney Co., Yahoo! Inc. and various trade

In the past, cable-industry officials have described the CBUI as a regulatory
cure in search of a problem, because cable operators do not use their broadband
networks to deny consumers the right to roam the Internet freely.

In the letter, Boucher and Kind urged Powell not to postpone adoption of
regulatory safeguards until after competitive harms have occurred.

"As a regulatory body, the FCC has greater responsibility of implementing
rules and policies to ensure that those harms never occur in the first place.
The time for the FCC to act by appropriate regulation to prevent that harm is
now," the letter said.