Former FCC Commissioner Bashes CBS For Web Blackout

Time Warner Cable customers in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas haven't been able to watch CBS on television for the last three weeks -- since Aug. 2, when talks about retransmission fees broke down.

That's not the only impact of the fee dispute. Time Warner broadband subscribers throughout the country can't access, thanks to CBS's decision to pull its Web content from Time Warner's Internet service.

That move strikes many observers as questionable, given that it affects people who receive broadband from Time Warner but don't get television service from the company.

But until now, no one seriously suggested that CBS was violating net neutrality regulations by removing its online programs from Time Warner. That's because the Federal Communications Commission's open Internet rules, which prohibit Internet service providers from blocking lawful content, appear to restrict only the cable companies and telecoms that provide broadband service.

At least that's how the rules have been interpreted to date. This week, however, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps expressed a different opinion. “CBS is perpetrating an audacious violation of the FCC Open Internet ('net neutrality') rules,” Copps writes in the Huffington Post. “These rules guarantee consumer access to lawful content. They are designed to prevent just this sort of corporate censorship.”



Copps, who served on the FCC when it voted to enact the rules, called on his former colleagues to “implement strong Open Internet rules of the road that protect broadband users from corporate censorship.”

He adds: “The Internet should not be subject to corporate gate keeping and these kinds of shenanigans.”

But as problematic as CBS's decision here is, Copps' argument seems like a stretch, given that the rules refer specifically to broadband providers.

Time Warner, for its part, criticized CBS's move in a written FCC filing, but didn't accuse the TV network of neutrality violations. Instead, Time Warner said that CBS’ “abusive” conduct “represents the antithesis of acting in the public interest."

Time Warner asked the FCC to “make clear that such abusive conduct will not be tolerated by broadcast licensees and their affiliates.”

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