Appeals Court Asked To Consider Broadband Internet Access

Web portal and broadband access company Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM) issued a statement Tuesday saying that it had filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Excite@Home asked the court to overturn a Portland, Oregon court decision that mandates all Internet service providers be given access to privately owned cable lines.

A Federal Communication Commission spokeswoman confirmed with the E-Commerce Times that the agency had also filed an amicus brief, which said that a hands-off policy on government regulation of the Internet would best serve consumers.

Excite@Home’s court filing warned that the Portland ordinance could draw 30,000 local governments into “a complicated, burdensome and costly regulation” of Internet services that would lead government authorities into a “regulatory briar patch with no way out.” The company singled out America Online and GTE in its statement, saying that the two companies are advocates for government mandated access to the cable infrastructure, but are “not willing to make the kind of investment made by Excite@Home and its cable partners.”

Excite@Home went on to say that such access would “be tantamount to permitting third parties to ‘free ride’ on the substantial investment of Excite@Home and its cable partners.”

Industry Association Weighs In

The company was backed by an industry association that counts as its members Apple, IBM, Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Sony, Unisys and Xerox, to name a few.

Connie Correll, communications director for the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), told the E-Commerce Times that the council sent a letter to the FCC “reemphasizing its desire to see that the issue be addressed at the national level.”

Correll said that the council was not necessarily taking sides in the debate, but rather asking that the government watch that the cable industry not become monopolized. She said that the FCC has previously spelled out its intent to carefully monitor the industry.

Excite@Home said it also had support from 25 leading Internet and technology companies, all of who signed a letter saying that “the Balkanized approach to the development of broadband Internet access would subvert the goals of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.”

Charles Schwab, BancBoston Robertson Stephens, iMall, Inc. and WebMD, Inc. were among those who signed the letter, according to Excite@Home.

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