Letter from Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) to Michael Armstrong.
Re: Open Access.
Date: December 17, 1999.
Source: House Commerce Committee Democrats.


December 17, 1999

Mr. C. Michael Armstrong
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
AT&T Corporation
32 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10013-2412

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I have followed with interest the release of the December 6th letter to FCC Chairman Kennard, signed by representatives of AT&T Corporation, Mindspring Enterprises Inc., and the FCCs Local & State Government Advisory Committee, outlining general principles for providing consumers with a choice of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for broadband Internet access over cable. That letter, and others sent to Chairman Kennard by representatives of Mindspring and the Media Access Project, raise important policy questions and concerns.

As you know, I have long questioned discriminatory regulatory treatment between and among different telecommunications platforms providing substantially similar services unless compelling technological differences make regulatory parity infeasible. Thus, while the broadband legislation I co-authored with Chairman Tauzin, H.R. 2420, explicitly ensures consumers choice of ISPs when accessing the Internet through incumbent local exchange carriers, we refrained in that legislation from seeking a comparable guarantee for cable consumers because of claimed technological impediments to such a policy. Until recently, your company and others in the cable industry insisted that no more than one ISP could operate on a single cable system. It now appears evident, from the principles submitted to Chairman Kennard, that at least AT&T has abandoned this technology argument, as well as a number of other technical and economic arguments used by the cable industry to oppose open access policies at all levels of government.

To the extent that these principles represent a first step by AT&T toward providing consumers with a competitive choice of ISPs, I welcome them. However, these principles cannot be read in isolation. They must be considered together with the letters submitted by other participants in the process, as well as the fact that three of the original six participants chose not to sign the principles. And while the evident erosion of the technological argument against cable open access should advance the movement toward a marketplace solution for ensuring consumer choice, Excite@Homes withdrawal from these discussions raises particular concerns about the true basis for any continued resistance to such a policy in the cable industry.

For these reasons, I have a number of questions about the principles themselves and about several issues not explicitly addressed by the letter to Chairman Kennard. I would appreciate your response to these questions:

As further analysis of these principles and the process that led to them unfolds in public debate, I may have additional questions for you. In the meantime, I would appreciate your attention to the inquiries above and request that you respond before the close of business on Friday, December 24, 1999. Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

 

JOHN D. DINGELL
RANKING MEMBER

cc: The Honorable W.J. "Billy" Tauzin