For Immediate Release:
Monday, August 30, 2004
Gene Kimmelman, CU, (202) 462-6262
Mark Cooper, CFA, (301) 384-2204
Jeffrey Chester, CDD, (202) 494-7100
(Washington, D.C.) – Consumer groups today roundly criticized the Bush Administration’s decision to appeal the Brand X case requiring cable operators to open their networks to competing Internet Service Providers, saying it was a blow to competition and diversity in the telecommunications industry.
“This is another dark day for competition and consumers in one of the most vital sectors of our economy,” said Mark Cooper, research director for Consumer Federation of America. CFA, Consumers Union and the Center for Digital Democracy were public interest interveners in the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court case.
Added Gene Kimmelman, senior public policy director for Consumers Union: “This is another example of the Administration’s policies that favor the major media and telecom companies at the expense of small competitors who offer consumers the potential for more choices, lower prices and greater diversity of viewpoints.”
The Administration’s decision to back the giant cable operators comes on the heels of a decision by the White House in June to side with the Bell telephone companies. The White House refused to support policies that would have continued to allow competing local exchange carriers to have access to the local telephone network on nondiscriminatory rates, terms and conditions. The FCC recently issued an order that assured the destruction of the competition and increasing prices for consumers, as soon as the election is over, the groups said.
“This decision is a strong reminder of why the telecommunications sector collapsed under the Bush Administration and the technology sector is limping along,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
A recent CFA paper, The Public Interest in Open Communications Networks (http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blogs/cooper/archives/OpenCommunicationsNetwork.pdf) shows that open communications networks have been at the core of the American economy for centuries. Nondiscriminatory access to transportation and communications networks has always been essential to a thriving economy, whether it was railroads, the telegraph or telecommunications. In the digital age when communications and commerce converge, open communications networks are even more important. The open environment of the Internet was the source of dynamic innovation in the digital economy in the 1990s, when nondiscriminatory access to telecommunications network was guaranteed.
“The Administration’s decisions have stifled innovation,” Cooper added. “The prospects for a significant recovery in the technology and telecom sectors will not improve until the policy of open communications networks is restored, providing an environment that promotes experimentation and innovation by thousands of companies, not just a handful of giant corporations.”