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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Access and Innovation Policy for the Third-Generation Internet


The success of the Internet in the U.S. fundamentally rests on 30 years of consistent FCC policy which sought to maintain network openness by making key network components available to all, on cost-effective terms, so as to foster competition and innovation. The Internet today enters a third phase of its history, when a critical mass of users are about to experience "always-on" high-speed access to the Internet from their home. At this crucial time, the FCC may abandon its successful policy and allow owners of the broadband infrastructure to foreclose access to the infrastructure they own. This is, we show, precisely the wrong time for such a reversal. While the current debate is forced by AT&T's acquisition of TCI, its proposed acquisition of MediaOne, and the companies' ties to Excite@Home, this particular matter simply forces us to address the more general issue. What should be the terms of access to emerging network infrastructures when competition exists, but reflects "collective dominance" of a few players? We argue that policy inaction places network innovation in jeopardy and threatens the continuation of successful infrastructure re-invention.

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