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Arizona Telecommunications & Information Council (ATIC)
Multitenant Building Telecommunications Access Study
Evolving Telecommunications Landscape-- Basics of Connectivity

Varying Points of View:

The Other Open Access/Forced Access Issue - ISP over Cable:

There is another active telecommunications policy struggle whose proponents couch their arguments in similar terms to the multitenant building access debate, "Open Access" versus "Forced Access." The cable television industry has invested heavily in upgrading their local Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) networks to deliver more and better video, while enabling the delivery of broadband Internet access and voice telephony services. Most cable television systems have entered into exclusive contracts with Excite@Home, Roadrunner, or other ISPs. for the next few years. AT&T as well as other cable operators have indicated that as these contracts expire, they will enter into agreements with other competitive ISPs to provide access and services to their cable subscribers over broadband connections.

Some call it open access. Some call it forced access. Sometimes it's just a pain in the access. The interesting, and encouraging, thing about this debate is that it is fundamentally a debate about means, not ends. Everyone I talk to about this issue - leaders in your industry, the ISP industry, franchising authorities - all embrace the concept of openness. Everyone seems to agree that openness and choice are what consumers want and will demand. This debate is really about how to get there. There are two choices: we can rely on the market to facilitate openness; or we can try to regulate our way there. For now, I'm putting my faith in the marketplace.
 -- William E. Kennard, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission before the California Cable Television Association, December 16, 1999

The monopolistic nature of the ILECs structure and history have lead to special regulatory oversight and requirements to unbundle their network elements for lease to the CLECs. Cable systems, are usually the regional incumbent provider of video entertainment, now seeing increasing threats from the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS), and even ILECs themselves in their core video offerings. As a recent entrant to the data and voice telephony markets, cable operators are themselves CLECs who will need to partner to deliver a full range of consumer services, but their networks, designed for shared video channels and bandwidth, will not be readily subdivided or separated out. As America On Line's (AOL) announced acquisition of Time-Warner proceeds, it will be interesting to observe possible shifts in AOL's original open access position. It seems likely they will become even a stronger force for competitive ISP access to cable systems as they still need ways to reach their subscribers in markets where they don't (yet) own the cable system.

Economics, like thermodynamics, rests on three principles: You get what you pay for;

You can't get something for nothing;

And if supply and demand can't be balanced by price adjustments, you get shortages.
Politics is the art of denying these principles.

Public policy is the science of implementing programs based on these denials until crisis arrives,

At which point dueling lobbyists work to shift blame to convenient villains.

Business is the craft of seeking profits in a market distorted by public policy without becoming a designated villain.
 -- Bill Frezza, Columnist in Communications Week, 11/25/96

Multitenant Building Telecommunications Access Study
Evolving Telecommunications Landscape-- Basics of Connectivity