Should cable companies have to share their broadband lines with third party ISPs?

This Ars Technica article talks about the debate.

I’m not sure what postion to take on this issue. Cable companies capitalistic self interest in funding investment in broadband infrastructure is a good thing, but so is lots of service provider competition. What’s the appropriate position in this debate? Does their a quasi-utility/monopoly status as a service provider in most communities, mean it’s fair to make them open up their lines to others who do not (and could not because of the utility-monopoly status of the cable provider service contracts) have competitive access to the broadband market?

Appeals Court rules that cable ISPs may have to share lines

Also here

Court ruling points way to broadband regulation

I believe that currently the cable companies have an unfair advantage over the baby bells, who are required to share their lines with third-party ISPs.

Some may say that cable and DSL compete against each other. While this is true in many areas, there are still a large number of areas where the only broadband option is cable. That means that the cable ISP holds a monopoly over high-speed Internet access. And that’s almost never good.

In my experience in doing tech support for users of both cable and DSL lines, I’ve found that all of the DSL providers, including the baby bell in-house providers, seemed to be much more “together” and provide better service than the cable ISPs. I believe that this is due in large part to the fact that there has been competition in DSL and not cable. hopefully, opening up the cable lines to other providers will get the in-house cable ISPs to provide better service.

If they do, my bill better go down, since right now I’m helping to pay for all of those improvements. Anybody wanting to “share” should have to pay also. I’m sure Cox didn’t invest all of that money just so somebody can come along later and freeload.

In case no one has noticed, this nation’s telecommunications policy is in complete disarray. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was to lay the ground work for the deregulation of the telecom industry.

At the time, the web was only two years old, and Internet services were barely covered in the Act. The industry and related technology is moving quickly, and the government can’t keep up.

As it is, the cable companies have an advantage over the Bells since they don’t have to share their infrastructure. There are two solutions to this problem: you can either force the cablecos to share their facilities, or no longer force the telcos to do so (the last paragraph of your first link touched on this dichotomy).

IMO, I don’t think it is the role of government to force this sort of behavior within private companies - let the market decide.

Problem is, it ain’t that simple. While the telcos used to enjoy a protected monopoly, that is no longer the case. But the market place is still not fully competitive, the local telcos remain dominant within their markets. Therefore, some regulation needs to continue to exist until free market forces can be trusted to guide the industry.

Cablecos, for the most part, never enjoyed protected monopoly status. They are often “franchised” by local governments, but other cable companies are allowed to come in and lay their own hybrid fiber/coax networks. Just doesn’t make any sense for them to do it. Luckily, the satellite providers help keep the cablecos honest.

Presumably, though, VoIP will completely overtake Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) within the next decade (or two). Broadband Internet is the basic building block of VoIP, so whomever owns the broadband market is best positioned to address the VoIP market. The stakes are quite large.

Other broadband technologies are beginning to emerge. The satellite companies I mentioned are beginning to offer two-way satellite broadband service. These services will be available almost anywhere in the North America (with a clear view of the southern sky). However, satellite broadband won’t work with VoIP. Notice that the Baby Bells are now teaming with the satellite providers to offer “bundles” - mainly to try and compete with the cablecos now offering telephony…

Wireless LAN technology, like 802.11x, is beginning to develop some higher speeds and longer distances, enabling wireless broadband services in the near future. This technology is positioned to give both cablecos and telcos competition in the near future. Neither can get too greedy - the market will settle those issues.

And while the “sharing of lines” is what draws the news, there is plenty of other related issues to this simple definition distinction of a “telecommunications service” and an “information service”. For example, a telecom service is require to pay federal fees into a kitty known as the Universal Service Fund. This fund helps subsidize the cost of phone service in rural areas and Internet services to schools and libraries. Telcos have to pay into it - even for DSL lines - but cablecos don’t. These sorts of market inequities will create real problems in the future. Once the government starts passing out money, there are plenty of constituents who won’t like any change.

So, I tend to side with Powell and the Republicans on this issue (one of the very issues I agree with them on). However, I also see that you can’t simply remove all regulations at once, and getting there through limited regulation is just barely better.

And if you think it’s a mess now, wait a decade (maybe less) and the new flavors of DSL with MUCH higher speeds will allow the telcos to effectively compete with cable companies in providing real content (traditional TV channels, movies on demand, etc.) over DSL networks.

The telco will be able to truly offer you bundled one stop shopping - and the cable co’s will probably cry foul and ask for protection.

Although as has been pointed out it will probably depend on a combination of who gets to the finish line first (ability to offer all services over one network) and who has the broader customer base.

Was I supposed to be debating?
OK - I say that in the current environment the cable companies should have to open their networks just like the RBOCs