ISP seeks access to cable networks

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A California Internet service provider has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to determine whether cable operators should be compelled to lease parts of their high-speed networks to independent Internet service providers.

In a petition filed with the FCC yesterday, Internet Ventures Inc. in Redondo Beach, Calif., argued that a portion of the Communications Act that requires cable operators to carry local broadcast television channels should also apply to Internet services.

The petition, filed along with Internet Ventures affiliate Internet On-Ramp, is sure to ruffle the feathers of cable operators, whose networks have long been seen as a prime medium for bringing high-speed Internet access to the masses.

Cable operators have argued that only they should be able to control access to their networks, in part because of the large financial investments they have made to build up the networks and convert them into two-way systems suitable for Internet use.

Critics charge that cable providers have been slow to offer Internet services, and that users can only choose from a limited selection of cable-based providers.

Internet Ventures claims it filed the petition only after trying fruitlessly for five months to gain leased access carriage on the Spokane cable system of TCI Washington. The company said it encountered similar obstacles in California and Colorado.

TCI couldn't be reached for comment. In a statement, the National Cable Television Association said the Communications Act is clear. "Cable's leased access channel obligations apply only to video programming. The current leased access rules were in no way meant to apply to Internet-related services," the statement read.

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