Brand X and the Future
James S. Granelli of the Los Angeles Times has an excellent summary today of the Brand X case, which the Supreme Court of the United States will hear next week. As Granelli points out (as others have before him), the Michael Powell FCC has backed itself into something of an impossible corner: On one hand, Powell sings the praises of broadband competition and how it should drive innovation and empower consumers; on the other, he and his commission have pursued policies that would leave the biggest, most powerful players in telecom in nearly unchallenged control of the broadband networks, to the potential exclusion of independent ISPs and new generations of data-service providers like VoIPs (the latest exhibit in the commission's somewhat schizophrenic stand on competition also comes from the L.A. Times's Granelli: The FCC has reportedly voted to kill state rules that forced BellSouth to sell DSL service to people who got voice and long-distance service from its competitors).
Yes -- the cable MSOs and the incumbent telephone companies have gone to a lot of effort and expense to build out high-speed capacity. But competitors aren't asking for free access -- they're asking for fair access. Next week's court arguments will be fascinating; but regardless of the eventual decision, the case is another powerful argument for an overhaul of the Telecom Act.