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Cable Execs Say They're Not Blocking Outside VoIP

SAN FRANCISCO -- Would cable companies block independent Internet services like Voice over IP from their broadband offerings? Not a chance, according to some top execs who spoke at the National Cable & Telecommunications Show here Sunday.

Those sentiments were echoed later in the day at a panel discussing government issues, where a chief legal staffer on the House Energy & Commerce committee said that members of that committee are "very concerned" about incidents like the recent port-blocking case involving Vonage and Madison River Communications, and that upcoming telecom reform legislation might include specific wording prohibiting the practice.

According to Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who is now chairman and the largest shareholder of Charter Communications, and Thomas Rutledge, chief operating officer of Cablevision, their companies shouldn't have to worry about violating any such law. Rutledge dismissed the idea of selectively blocking services out of hand, even though players like Vonage might compete with Cablevision's own VoIP offering.

"If you look at our high-speed network, Yahoo's on it, Google's on it, AOL's on it and voice is on it," Rutledge said in an interview after Sunday's keynote panel discussion. "Our customers expect to access to the sites our network enables them to have, and the applications that they're able to reach. For us to do anything otherwise would be against our economic interest."

Kyle McSlarrow, the newly minted president and CEO of the NCTA, said cable-company CEOs he has talked to since he's been on the job are "absolutely" against selective blocking of Internet services or applications.

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