It's boring, it's complicated, and it's absolutely critical to the future of the Net. So listen up, you hear? The question of monopolized control of high-speed Net access is all over the media this morning.
The Financial Times casts an eye across the water at ATT (T)'s growing control of cable lines in the U.S. amid increasing challenges from local governments who want to force the company to carry ISPs it doesn't own. Supporters call the movement "open access." The FT's Richard Waters (WSCC) looks at what "open" actually means here: It's synonymous with "regulated." Waters argues that regulation is the last thing a vibrant, growing market needs. Especially one with a built-in protection against monopoly - the existence of at least four competing, albeit immature, technologies for high-speed Net access.
CNET (CNET)'s John Borland reports on another front in the local-access wars. ISPs nationwide are pooling their experiences to prove that the huge local phone companies are doing them dirty as they try to provide customers with high-speed DSL connections. Borland notes that the FCC has been sympathetic and encouraging to the ISPs. He remains even-handed, but gives the last word to a spokesman from Pacific Bell: "No ISP is going to be happy 100 percent of the time. But we absolutely value our wholesale relationships. Part of our strategy for reaching our DSL goals is to use those ISPs."
Randy Barrett and Carol Wilson, writing in ZDNet's Internet Week, delve more deeply into the snake pit of DSL installation. Realizing that customers nationwide are screaming about poor service (on a site called DSLreports.com, among others), Barrett and Wilson peel the DSL onion and discuss the layer omitted by the Pac Bell rep in CNET's story. The Baby Bells have reason to make life difficult for their true DSL competitors - not the ISPs, but the competitive local exchange carriers. To make life interesting, sometimes an ISP will act as a CLEC. (And the Snark is a Boojum, you see.) Along these wires, genuine confusion reigns.
Peter J. Howe wrote a little-noted piece for yesterday's Boston Globe that cast the battle in local terms. It seems that selectmen in Weymouth, Mass., voted to disallow AT&T's takeover of that town's cable franchise unless the giant opened its cables to local ISPs.
ATT: Paying the Piper
ISPs Allege Bell Abuse in High-Speed Services
Trouble in DSL Paradise
Weymouth Vote Forces MediaOne to Open Access