NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Forcing "Open Access" On Cable Internet Systems

April 13, 1999

Perhaps it was inevitable that officials of high-tech companies would eventually discover the political process and its potential for helping them to out-maneuver rivals. Once a rarity in Washington, they are now becoming fixtures, observers report.

"I think it's funny that people in Silicon Valley pride themselves on being great libertarians," says the American Enterprise Institute's Thomas Hazlett. He notes that they now are ready to lobby "so long as they think it can benefit them."

  • America Online Inc. is leading more than 50 corporations in an extensive lobbying offensive against cable providers, like AT&T Corp.'s TCI cable unit, that are moving to expand the Internet's reach on their own terms.
  • The coalition wants federal and local authorities to force cable companies that offer high-speed, broadband service to give all Internet service providers and other online companies access to their lines.
  • Observers charge that AOL has a history of using government action or the threat of it to beat back competitors.

To ensure their success, companies are revving up their campaign contributions.

  • A report by the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that in the 1998 election cycle, companies, PACs and persons tied to the computer industry gave at least $8.1 million in all kinds of political donations -- twice the amount the industry gave in the previous election.
  • While almost all the top 10 computer contributors in the past two years gave to both parties, Microsoft, Gateway 2000, EDS Corp., Cisco Systems, Netscape Communications, J.D. Edwards & Co., and Telxon Corp. gave more to the Republicans.
  • Democrats were favored by Oracle, IDX Systems Corp., and America Online.

Source: Daniel J. Murphy, "High Tech Now Cruises K Street," Investor's Business Daily, April 13, 1999.


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