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Consumer groups pan ISP proposal

The FCC wants to weaken regulations meant to create competition between high-speed ISPs, say consumer groups, calling it one of the "biggest threats to the Internet" yet.

The Federal Communications Commission wants to weaken regulations meant to create competition between high-speed ISPs, some of the largest consumers groups in the country said Thursday.

The Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) plan to file objections Friday with the FCC, according to Jeff Chester, CDD executive director.

The FCC requires that companies allow access to telephone lines and provide room in central switching offices for rivals that want to offer DSL (digital subscriber line) services.

But Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federal of America said the FCC has proposed lifting those restrictions for sellers of high-speed Internet access. In February, for example, the FCC published a draft version of new rules for high-speed ISPs. The proposals didn't include these so-called "open access" mandates, he said.

Cooper calls it one of the "biggest threats to the Internet" yet.

"For the first time, the owner of the network will be able to make all kinds of access and content decisions about the Internet," he said.

Telephone companies, which own most of the nation's high-speed Internet networks, support the FCC's proposed new rule, according to comments on file with the FCC.

Under the present rules, regulators control the lease prices, and as a result, phone companies say they're losing money on their infrastructure investments.

The FCC has yet to make a final decision on the issue, a spokeswoman said. She would not comment further.