TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Court Overturns Ruling on Cable Internet Lines

Court Overturns Ruling on Cable Internet Lines

Lisa Minter (
Mon, 27 Jun 2005 10:04:30 -0500

The Supreme Court on Monday overturned a ruling that cable high-speed
Internet lines must be opened to rival online service providers,
handing a victory to the Federal Communications Commission.

By a 6-3 vote, the justices overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling
that cable high-speed Internet service, known as broadband, has a
telecommunications component and is subject to traditional telephone
network access requirements.

The appeals court overturned an FCC decision in 2002 that cable
broadband was an information service and therefore free from most
traditional telephone service rules, like requirements to lease
network access to rivals.

At the time, FCC officials said the move was necessary to spur more
investment in high-speed Internet services. Cable companies have
invested billions of dollars in upgrading their networks and are
aggressively pushing those services.

Telephone companies, which also offer Internet services, have long
complained that the FCC rules put them at a competitive disadvantage
because they have to lease some of their high-speed Internet lines to

In appealing to the Supreme Court, the government and cable companies
argued the appeals court did not extend the required deference to the
agency's expertise and decision-making process. Internet service
providers opposed the appeal.

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed in the majority opinion that the
appeals court had erred.

He said the FCC's conclusion that broadband cable modem companies are
exempt from mandatory common-carrier regulation is a lawful
construction of the Communications Act.

Justices Antonin Scalia, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The cable industry has about 21 million high-speed Internet access
subscribers. Independent Internet service providers like EarthLink
Inc. and public interest groups have worried that, without some
safeguards by the FCC, consumers would have limited choices for
providers or Web-surfing capabilities.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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