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Companies urge FCC to scrap broadband study that favors open access

The cable and telecom industries have called for the Federal Communications Commission to scrap a controversial Harvard University study on broadband Internet. At issue is an assertion in the report that nations that adopted open-access policies had greater success rolling out broadband to its residents.

The Berkman Center report says:

Our most surprising and significant finding is that “open access” policies—unbundling, bitstream access, collocation requirements, wholesaling, and/or functional separation—are almost universally understood as having played a core role in the first generation transition to broadband in most of the high performing countries

In comments due Monday to the agency, the operators of those networks including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Cox challenged the report's findings. They also said the main author of the Harvard Berkman Center study is a biased long-time advocate of net neutrality policies. The FCC commissioned the study from Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The agency will use the study and other outside opinions and analysis as it comes up with a plan, mandated by Congress, to bring high-speed Internet to all American homes and businesses and help get people to use the technology.

"Unfortunately, the Report prepared by the Berkman Center is neither comprehensive nor objective," the National Cable and Telecommunications Association wrote in its comments. "Ignoring the commission’s request to perform a thorough study of all the factors potentially affecting broadband deployment and adoption, the Berkman Report donned blinders for any issue that did not fit its agenda of promoting government mandated access regulation."

The companies have also warned against new net neutrality rules that would govern how they treat content on the Web. They have said new rules, which are being considered by the FCC, are unnecessary and could hamper their businesses.

Trade groups also questioned the objectivity of the report's author, Professor Yochai Benkler, a professor of entrepreneurial legal studies at Harvard Law School. "Professor Benkler has presented the agency with new research and analysis plainly biased in favor of the professor's strongly held personal views."

Benkler wrote in an email that he could not immediately respond because he was reviewing the comments beings submitted yesterday night.

"Because of these significant flaws, the Berkman Report is of little or no value to the Commission in its efforts to develop a National Broadband Plan,” the NCTA said.

photo: Berkman report author Harvard Law School Professor Yochai Benkler.
credit: Harvard Law School

By Cecilia Kang  |  November 17, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Broadband , FCC  
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