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Federal Communications Commission
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News media information 202 / 418-0500
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Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

September 3, 1998

FCC Staff Working Paper on Regulatory Categories and the Internet

The FCC's Office of Plans and Policy (OPP) today released a staff working paper analyzing the policy issues raised by the delivery of Internet-based services over cable television systems. OPP Working Paper No. 30, "Internet Over Cable: Defining the Future in Terms of the Past," was written by Barbara Esbin, Associate Bureau Chief of the Cable Services Bureau, in conjunction with OPP. Periodically, OPP issues working papers on emerging areas in communications; these papers represent individual views and are not an official statement by the FCC or any FCC commissioner.

"Internet Over Cable" represents the first comprehensive assessment of the regulatory status of Internet-based services delivered over cable systems. While the FCC has already begun to address the issues "integrated" or "converged" broadband digital services pose in terms of the regulatory categories of "telecommunications" and "information" services, the question of how to treat Internet-based services delivered over cable systems has yet to be directly addressed by the FCC.

After describing features and functions of the Internet and the communications capabilities it makes possible, the paper addresses the existing regulatory framework for wireline communications services under Titles I, II and VI of the Communications Act. The paper concludes that the FCC could find that certain cable-provided Internet services come within the revised definition of cable services under Title VI the Act, while Internet access services provided by telecommunications carriers over common carrier facilities are treated differently under existing statutory and FCC requirements. It concludes with a discussion of the broader policy issues arising from this new communications medium, and identifies some potential regulatory alternatives for addressing these issues.

Ms. Esbin states that the "discussion of the regulatory classification issue for Internet over cable systems, and the related common carrier issues, is intended to map the contours of the legal and policy issues surrounding the clash of new, advanced capabilities such as the Internet with the old regulatory framework." The goal of this mapping exercise "is to facilitate informed discussion and decision-making in this very important area by identifying the correct coordinates and posing the relevant questions."

The paper is available on the FCC World Wide Web site, http://www.fcc.gov. The file is available for online viewing in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) at: http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/OPP/working_papers/oppwp30.pdf

Copies may also be purchased from International Transcription Service, Inc., 1231 20th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 857-3800.

- FCC -

News media contacts: Morgan Broman at (202) 418-2358
and Maureen Peratino at (202) 418-0500
Cable Services Bureau contact: Barbara Esbin at (202) 418-7200.
Office of Plans and Policy contact: Robert Pepper at (202) 418-2030
TTY: (202) 418-7172