Last updated: February 20, 2008 - 11:37pm
[SOURCE: Washington Post, AUTHOR: Arshad Mohammed]
SBC Communications Chairman Edward E. Whitacre Jr stirred up a hornets' nest this week by suggesting that he wants to charge companies like Google and Yahoo a fee for bringing them into consumers' homes. His comments to Business Week magazine prompted Internet companies to accuse him of aspiring to block access to their Web sites and to extort money from their businesses. The incident revived a debate on whether Congress should make sure that consumers can go wherever they want on the Internet and keep phone and cable companies from blocking legal Web sites and services. "He is basically making the case for regulation," said Gigi B. Sohn, the president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that advocates an open Internet. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin declined to comment directly on Whitacre's remarks but said he does not think new FCC rules are warranted. "I don't think that there is evidence of the kind of activity of blocking consumers' access to the Internet that would justify us adopting new rules at this stage," Martin said in an interview. In approving the SBC-AT&T merger this week, the FCC put conditions on the deal that would prohibit the company from restricting access to Internet content for two years. Martin had initially opposed imposing any conditions for the merger.
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