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[ NNSquad ] Re: Upcoming conference on "Broadband Census for America"

   [ Fears of anticompetitive or unfair tactics from the telephone
     and cable ISPs -- the same operations that anti-neutrality
     forces frequently argue should be left essentially unregulated?

         -- Lauren Weinstein
            NNSquad Moderator ]

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From: David Farber <dave@farber.net>
To: "ip" <ip@v2.listbox.com>
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2008 09:02:30 -0700
Subject: [IP] Re: Upcoming conference on "Broadband Census for America"

From: Brett Glass [brett@lariat.net]
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2008 10:10 AM
To: David Farber; ip
Subject: Re: [IP] Upcoming conference on "Broadband Census for America"

Dave, and Everyone:

Any such conference should include a discussion -- which includes some
small and independent ISPs -- of concerns regarding the disclosure of
the business information submitted by ISPs on the FCC's Form 477.

Many independent ISPs have declined to fill out the forms which reveal
the numbers of customers they have, where those customers are located,
and the types of service that they provide for fear of anticompetitive
actions by the telephone and cable companies. Given the Zip Codes where
a competitor is doing business, these large companies can precisely
target anticompetitive practices designed to undercut small competitors,
take their customers and potential customers, and lock them into long
term contracts so as to starve competitors of business. Also, since
many of the competitors rely on the ILECs to backhaul their data, the
ILECs can use the data to impose artificially high leased line prices
upon the competitors to drive them out of business. They may even cut
those competitors off from the Net altogether. While one would think
that such practices would be contrary to antitrust law and the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC has abdicated its authority
to ensure that the ILECs price access to essential facilities fairly.
The issue of anticompetitive "price squeezing" is also up in the air,
with many libertarian economists advocating that such behavior --
devastating though it is to competition and to consumer welfare -- not
be actionable. (The Supreme Court will consider AT&T v. LinkLine in its
next session, and if it rules against LinkLine in this critical case it
will give the ILECs a green light to wipe out competition.)

Initially, the FCC promised to help small companies avoid such practices
by keeping this highly proprietary data in confidence. But Drew Clark,
head of BroadbandCensus.com, has sued it under the Freedom of Information
Act to have this data released. As a result, many of those providers --
justifiably believing that it would imperil their livelihoods -- have
declined to fill out Form 477 and thus have hurt the accuracy of the FCC's
broadband survey.

Hopefully, a compromise can be reached in which ISPs can contribute to
a "broadband census" without compromising their extremely sensitive and
proprietary data. But oddly, the literature on the upcoming event available
at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=331, does not mention participation by
any ISP, nor does it suggest any consideration of their concerns. It just
makes sense that if one wants to foster broadband deployment, ISPs -- who
are intimately aware of what is necessary to do it -- should be involved
in crafting the policies that make it happen.

- --Brett Glass, LARIAT.NET

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