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ACA Proposes Net Neutrality Regime That Protects Consumers, Promotes Country's Digital Future

Trade Group Predicts Dominant Content Providers Will, If Left Unchecked, Exploit Loopholes To Stifle Competition

PITTSBURGH, January 15, 2010 - With the Internet economy and America'sdigital future at stake, the American Cable Association proposed a series ofimportant Net Neutrality policies designed to secure a balanced broadbandecosystem that protected the interests of consumers, safeguarded the benefitsof an open Internet and preserved the incentive structure needed to justify thefinancial risk of deploying broadband facilities in rural, low-densitycommunities.

"ACA firmlybelieves that flawed regulation is worse than no regulation at all. Any attemptby the Federal Communications Commission to establish Net Neutrality rules mustinclude powerful Internet market participants that offer content, applications,services and devices, and not just focus on broadband access providers,"American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

ACA communicated itsviews on the proper role and scope of Net Neutrality regulation in detailedcomments (attached) filed with the FCC in a closely watched proceeding thatcould have a profound impact on the business strategy of small cable operatorsthat continue to provide broadband service to millions of consumers residing insome of the most economically challenging communities in the country.

ACA's sent a clearwarning that the goal of an open, vibrant Internet won't be achieved unless theagency moved beyond a rigid focus on the conduct of broadband access providers,particularly ACA members that clearly lack the market power to warrant evenlight government oversight.

"The FCC mustnot fall into the trap of adopting regulations that contain Hummer-sizeloopholes for powerful content companies ready to exploit exemptions so theycan skew markets and bend small broadband access providers to their will,"Polka said. "The writing is on the wall. Just look at the Walt DisneyCo.'s ESPN360 business model, which denies consumers access to online contentunless their broadband access provider has paid Disney wholesale fees that allsubscribers must pay. Disney's refusal to engage in a direct relationship withcustomers is the antithesis of an open Internet where consumer sovereigntyreigns."

From ACA'sperspective, the FCC needs to make a number of key adjustments to produce a coherentstrategy so that the agency achieves the goals it has set out for itself andthe public expects and deserves. To that extent, ACA recommended the followingpolicies to reduce ambiguity, provide greater clarity for all stakeholders, andreduce the risk of unintended consequences:

  • Net Neutrality regulation must include all providers of broadband content, applications, services and devices;
  • Reasonable network management needs to be defined to include "bandwidth throttling" for high-bandwidth users during periods of congestion; nondiscriminatory prioritization of traffic during periods of congestion; and consumption-based billing;
  • Technical compatibility should not be interpreted to mean that a DOCSIS-based broadband Internet access provider has to support a DSL modem currently compatible with telephone network technology;
  • Provisions that would entitle consumers to competition among network providers or service providers should not require broadband access providers to comply with common carrier "open access" mandates;
  • The definition of nondiscrimination should not preclude broadband access providers from offering a wide range of differently priced services and service levels;
  • Transparency obligations should permit broadband access providers to inform consumers of their network management policies and practices by posting information on company Web sites;
  • Various specialized and managed services, such as VoIP, IPTV, Web site hosting, advertising, virtual private networks for business, should be exempt from regulation; and
  • Enforcement policies currently used by the FCC should be maintained, allowing for the resolution of disputes through established formal and informal complaint procedures.

About the AmericanCable Association

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

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