A group of independent internet service providers (ISPs), fearing they will be denied access to the broadband pipes owned by major cable and telecommunications companies, are forming a group to lobby the US Congress.
More than 100 representatives of ISPs took the first steps toward setting up a national ISP association that would have branches in all 50 US states.
One goal for organisers of the National Internet Alliance is to support a court case against the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which ruled in March 2002 that cable modem broadband service is an unregulated information service. Without FCC regulation, cable companies are not required to share their broadband networks with other ISPs.
In October 2003, a US Court of Appeals ruled against the FCC, opening up cable modem networks to competing ISPs in a case brought by Brand X Internet Services.
In March, the court denied an FCC request for a rehearing of the case, but the FCC, as well as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), have asked for, and been granted, a stay of the court's decision pending a request for the Supreme Court to take the case.
Although the court case has gone their way so far, organisers of the National Internet Alliance fear an FCC victory will pave the way for the FCC to rule that DSL (digital subscriber line) networks will also be allowed to shut out competing ISPs.
Major telecommunications carriers which own most DSL networks must allow competing ISPs to offer service using their lines. If that happens, many independent ISPs will be forced out of business.
"One of the things we were concerned about is the FCC's attempt to legitimise monopolies by these really large companies," said Jim Pickrell, president of Brand X.
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service