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ISP group pushing to stay connected

An advocacy group representing ISPs and Net users are set to petition the FCC to investigate alleged anticompetitive practices of regional telephone companies.

    An advocacy group representing Internet service providers and Net users plans to petition the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the alleged anticompetitive practices of regional telephone companies.

    An attorney for the group, TeleTruth, said a petition will be filed with the FCC as early as Wednesday, asking the agency to investigate the practices of the Baby Bells. TeleTruth, based in New York, charges that the regional Bells hinder the ability of independent ISPs to sell broadband service.

    The petition, also a rule-making request, sets forth a bill of rights for consumers, giving them a choice between various ISPs.

    Independent ISPs and consumer groups have long complained that the rules and regulations intended to protect their ability to conduct business have been routinely ignored. The cable networks and the Baby Bells own most of the physical infrastructure that's needed to put high-speed Net connections into homes. While most cable operators weren't required to share their networks with other companies, the Baby Bells had to open up DSL (digital subscriber line) connections to independent Internet access resellers.

    But in a blow to these independent ISPs, the FCC in February ruled that the Bells are no longer required to lease their DSL.

    "We are asking the FCC to slow down and make sure the things they are doing do not end up eliminating the independent ISPs," said W. Scott McCollough, attorney with the Austin, Texas-based law firm of Stumpf Craddock Massey & Pulman. "In our opinion, the FCC has not been very effective in enforcing the rules that it has to prevent discriminatory and unreasonable practices."

    If the independent ISPs are pushed out of the market completely, consumers will have fewer competitive choices for Internet access, according to the group.

    The FCC has a few open rule-making proceedings on broadband deployment for which it is seeking public comment, according to a representative. The agency, however, declined to comment on the TeleTruth petition because it has yet to receive it.