Micro$oft Monitor

Published by NetAction Issue No. 40 July 29, 1999
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Why You Haven't Heard From Us
Bring Us Broadband
About Micro$oft Monitor

Why You Haven't Heard From Us

When NetAction launched the Consumer Choice Campaign in May of 1997, our goal was to focus attention on Microsoft's growing monopolization of the Internet. At that time, we were filling an unmet need within the activist community. Ralph Nader and Jamie Love at the Consumer Project on Technology were just beginning to plan their first Microsoft conference. No other organizations were working to mobilize Internet users to speak up about their concerns. NetAction filled that gap by publishing the Micro$oft Monitor, conducting and distributing surveys, and researching and publishing white papers.

But we haven't published an issue of the Micro$oft Monitor since last March, and I'm sure that some of you may be wondering why. The reason is simple: we are moving on to other issues and will no longer be monitoring developments in the Microsoft antitrust case. As many of NetAction's supporters and colleagues know, our resources are limited, Most of what we are able to accomplish is done by volunteers. Although this will be our last formal communication to the Micro$oft Monitor mailing list, we plan to maintain the list on inactive status in the event we are able to resume work on this issue in the future.

Before saying goodbye, I want to acknowledge and thank some of the individuals who have helped NetAction on this project, and express my appreciation to all the Internet users who have provided support -- both moral and financial -- for our efforts on this issue. I'm truly pleased that NetAction was able to play a small role in putting this issue on the public interest agenda.

Most importantly, I want to thank Jim Warren, who serves on NetAction's Advisory Board, for pointing out the need to organize Internet users to speak up about Microsoft's anticompetitive activities, and Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology, for encouraging me to go forward with this effort. Advisory Board members Judi Clark and Glenn Manishin also deserve special thanks for the substantive advice and assistance they provided, as do Nathan Newman, project director for the Consumer Choice Campaign, and Mitch Stoltz, our volunteer intern. Many others, including people I've never met face-to-face, are also to be thanked for their assistance and support.

Before signing off, I want to alert you to the new project we are launching, to educate and mobilize internet users around the need for competitive deployment of high-speed Internet access. The following article, which is also published in NetAction Notes, describes this initiative. We hope you will support this new campaign.

Bring Us Broadband

A high-stakes debate is taking place in communities throughout the United States, and the outcome will determine how soon -- and under what conditions -- high-speed Internet access is offered via broadband cable. NetAction is launching a campaign to educate consumers about the advantages of competitive deployment of high-speed Internet access.

On one side of the debate is AT&T, which until 1984 was the nation's monopoly telephone company, and still controls more than half of the long distance market. On the other side is America Online (AOL), the nation's largest Internet service provider, allied with GTE and the Regional Bell Operating Companies. AOL is also financing No Gatekeepers, a coalition of consumer groups backing AOL's position.

As a longtime consumer advocate, I've seen my share of corporate posturing, but the unholy alliance of AOL, GTE, and the Bells raises hypocrisy to new heights. Under the guise of a call for "open access," these companies have launched a massive lobbying campaign to convince federal, state and local officials, as well as consumers, that AT&T should be forced to provide its competitors with access to the broadband cable network it is spending over $100 billion to deploy. In essence, AT&T's competitors want to benefit from the company's investment without risking their own capital.

It's a sweet deal for AT&T's competitors. And by couching this lobbying effort as a call for "open access," AOL and its allies have managed to convince a few local officials and consumer groups that it's also good for consumers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

GTE and the Bells are the very same companies that have maintained monopoly control of local phone service by using every regulatory and legal trick in the book to avoid opening their own networks to competitors - as they were mandated to do three years ago when Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

And AOL is the company that recently declared its millions of customers "off limits" to instant messaging via software provided by companies other than AOL. If that's an example of AOL's commitment to "open access," consumers have good reason to be worried.

That's why Internet users who want competitive choices in high-speed Internet access should support the "hands off" approach to Internet regulation that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has used for nearly 30 years. As a recent FCC Working Paper pointed out, this "hands off" approach is working. See: http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/OPP/working_papers/oppwp31.pdf (in PDF format).

The Bells and GTE have for years had the technical ability to offer high-speed Internet access over the phone network via digital subscriber line (DSL) service. But they didn't start offering their own high-speed Internet service until competition began to emerge via broadband cable modems. Then, when competition finally developed, the telcos enlisted AOL's help in demanding that government regulate the new technology. This is nothing more than a ploy to slow down competition for both Internet access and local phone service.

NetAction does not believe regulation is necessary to ensure that consumers have choices in high-speed Internet access. Wireless technology is being developed, and competition from cable broadband is already motivating local phone companies to offer DSL service at competitive prices. The "forced access" being advocated by AOL, GTE, and the Bells will simply delay competition and effectively deny consumers the benefits Congress promised when it passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

That's why NetAction is launching Bring Us Broadband, an Internet outreach campaign to educate consumers about the advantages of competitive deployment of high-speed Internet access, and alert consumers to opportunities to speak out against proposals to regulate access to cable broadband that threaten to delay the introduction of competitive high-speed Internet service.

The Bring Us Broadband campaign includes background on the issue, information on how to speak up, and links to other resources. We are also inviting Internet users to subscribe to a new email alert list, Broadband Briefings. Subscribers will be alerted to opportunities to speak out before local, state, and federal officials as they consider this issue.

To subscribe to Broadband Briefings:
Send an email message to:
In the message body, type: subscribe broadband

About The Micro$oft Monitor

The Micro$oft Monitor is a free electronic newsletter, published as part of the Consumer Choice Campaign http://www.netaction.org/msoft/ccc.html. NetAction is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology-based social and political issues, and to teaching activists how to use the Internet for organizing, outreach, and advocacy.

To subscribe to The Micro$oft Monitor, write to: . The body of the message should state: subscribe monitor. To unsubscribe at any time, send a message to: . The body of the message should state: unsubscribe monitor.

NetAction is supported by individual contributions, membership dues and grants. For more information about contributing to NetAction, contact Audrie Krause by phone at (415) 775-8674, by E-mail at , visit the NetAction Web site at: http://www.netaction.org, or write to:

601 Van Ness Ave., No. 631
San Francisco, CA 94102

To learn more about how activists can use the Internet for grassroots organizing, outreach, and advocacy, subscribe to NetAction Notes, a free electronic newsletter published twice a month.

To subscribe to NetAction Notes, send a message to: The body of the message should state: subscribe netaction. To unsubscribe at any time, send a message to: The body of the message should state: unsubscribe netaction.

Copyright 1999 by The Tides Center/NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source. NetAction is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.