Cable Group Turns Net Neutrality Around Over ISP Access Fees
Here's an issue that will probably keep the telecom lawyers growling at each other for just a decade or so. The American Cable Association has asked the Federal Communications Commission to stop Internet video content providers from charging ISPs wholesale access fees to their sites "at discriminatory rates, terms and conditions." The ACA filed their request as feedback in the agency's proceeding on its National Broadband Plan. The trade group represents about 900 small and medium sized cable/ISP operators, many serving rural areas. "Media giants are in the early stages of becoming Internet gatekeepers by requiring broadband providers to pay for their Web-based content and services and include them as part of basic Internet access for all subscribers," an ACA press release on the issue warns. "These content providers are also preventing subscribers who are interested in the content from independently accessing it on broadband networks of providers that have refused to pay." We don't force anybody Although the above quote uses the plural, the ACA filing cites only one media giant that it says has actually adopted this practice: the Disney-owned sports site ESPN360.com. But indeed, when Ars went to the site, a pop-up announcement cheerfully told us that "your internet service provider offers ESPN360.com" and that it is "powered by AT&T," one of almost 60 ISPs that feature the online live sports network. Ars contacted ESPN for a comment on the cable protest, and we got one right quick. "It's typical ACA is making unsubstantiated claims, and this is another attempt to convince the government to give it valuable programming for free," a spokesperson for the company told us. "We don't force distributors—small or large—to carry any of our products. ESPN360.com is a business that would simply not exist but for this economic model, and it offers over 3,500 live events which would mostly not otherwise be seen."