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Feds Mull Rules, Fees to Spur Net Access

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The Federal Communications Commission is mulling whether to force Internet service providers to share their networks with rivals and raise fees on consumers' bills to pay for expanded broadband access. The proposals have drawn criticism from telecommunica

Credit: Bloomberg News

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is debating whether it should force Internet service providers (ISPs) to share their networks with rivals and increase the fees charged to consumers' phone bills to pay for broader Internet access. The proposals, which are heavily opposed by telecommunications and cable companies, are a reversal from the Bush administration, when regulators reduced government control of Internet and phone service. The new Democrat-controlled commission is considering if more government oversight is necessary to ensure competition and more affordable Internet service.

The FCC will examine possible solutions in December and make a formal recommendation in February when it is scheduled to release its National Broadband Plan for improving broadband speed and access. FCC officials estimate that the plan could cost $20 billion to $350 billion, depending on the speed offered, to connect all U.S. households to high-speed Internet service.

One potential solution would revive open access rules, which would require ISPs to lease their networks to rivals at government-regulated rates. Open access rules are in place in Europe and some Asian countries, and consumer advocates argue that open access is a major reason why Internet service is cheaper and faster in those countries. Cable and phone companies argue that they will have little reason to invest in networks if they are required to offer below-rate access to competitors.

From The Wall Street Journal
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