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ACA To FCC: Ensuring Unfettered Consumer Access To Internet Content Means Restricting Closed Internet Models Like ESPN360

Without Content Neutrality, Net Neutrality Would Allow Powerful Content Providers to Raise Costs and Restrict Choices

PITTSBURGH, October 26, 2009 - As the Federal Communications Commission launched its Net Neutrality rulemaking, the American Cable Association issued the following caution: Ensuring that consumers have access to all lawful content means the FCC must stop powerful content providers from using wholesale arrangements to restrict consumer access to content. ACA cited ESPN360.com as an example where the most powerful sports programmer denies access to content, unless a consumer subscribes to a particular broadband provider.

"ACA believes that content distributors such as ESPN360 should live under the same Net Neutrality rules as broadband service providers," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "The foremost principle of Net Neutrality is that consumers can access the legal content of their choice.  ESPN360 fails that principle, and any regulation must address that."

ESPN360, owned by the Walt Disney Co., is pioneering a closed Internet business model, under which broadband service providers must pay ESPN fees based on their total number of broadband subscribers, forcing those with no interest in watching sporting events on the Internet to subsidize those who routinely want to access ESPN360's content.

"Despite having the technological know-how to provide this content directly to subscribers for a fee, ESPN has opted to block access to this Web content unless an access provider agrees to place this financial burden on all of its broadband customers," Polka said. "That is wrong, and the FCC must ensure that each consumer has the individual choice to buy or not buy ESPN360."

ACA is urging the FCC not to overlook the importance of Content Neutrality because rules solely focused on broadband network providers would leave a gaping hole in the regulatory regime and expose consumers to an assortment of harms that would likely drive up the cost of broadband, a result totally at odds with the Obama Administration's goal of making broadband access both universal and affordable.

Polka also stressed that Net Neutrality regulations should permit ISPs to engage in reasonable network management practices and should give them the right to experiment with a range of consumer pricing models, especially consumption- and metered-billing options, which promote affordable broadband access for every American.

"Under flat-rate pricing plans, the network's heaviest users transfer their costs to light and moderate users and network upgrade costs must be recovered from all subscribers equally," Polka said. "Customers who rely on the Internet just to find a job by e-mailing resumes should not have to pay more for broadband simply because other customers are watching the latest blockbusters in HD."


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About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing more than 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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