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Coalition frowns on ISP access fees

Some of high-tech's heaviest hitters argue the FCC should exempt Internet service providers from access fees; Baby Bells say that's not fair.

A coalition including Apple Computer, America Online, IBM, Microsoft and Intel today filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission arguing against extending access charges to Internet service providers.

Most Baby Bells filed comments supporting the charges, however. They argued that Internet growth requires them to make substantial investments in upgrading their networks, and that they should be compensated through the charges.

The coalition's filing came on the last day of public comments on the proposal.

"The coalition hopes the FCC adopts its tentative conclusion to not impose access charges," said Harris Miller, co-chair of the group. The FCC is expected to issue a final ruling later this year.

In its filing the group said: "[Imposing carrier access charges on ISPs] would risk quashing the broad participation of what has become a highly important mode of free speech."

Public interest groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as trade groups for newspapers and cable television, sided with the Internet access coalition.

As previously reported, the FCC also received more than 100,000 emails from Netizens who expressed their views on the proposal. The flood of email temporarily caused the shutdown of one FCC computer network last week.