FCC: closed nets damaging US broadband

A reluctance to force telecoms and cable operators to open their networks to competitors has led to the country being overtaken in rankings of broadband penetration and affordability, according to a study for the Federal Communications Commission.

The study could strengthen expectations of change in the stance held by the FCC for much of this decade, which contrasted with countries from the Netherlands to South Korea that have "open access" policies. It notes that open access has been "a closed issue in US policy debates" since 2002.

The reportís authors said their "most surprising and significant finding" was that unbundling, wholesaling and functional separation had played core roles in the transition to first-generation broadband access in most high-performing countries."

Pushing incumbent telecoms providers to restructure and open networks was playing an equally central role in planning for the next generation of high speeds and ubiquitous access, it said. The FCC is not bound by the study and has asked for comments on it, but its publication has been seen as a sign of possible changes under Julius Genachowski, who was confirmed in June as its new chairman.

Telecoms, technology and content industries are also awaiting the outcome of an FCC meeting planned for October 22nd, to decide how it will implement "net neutrality" rules aimed at preventing network owners from favouring some content providers over others.