Appeals Court Drop-Kicks Line-Sharing Rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., sided with incumbent
telephone companies Friday, reversing the line-sharing requirements meant
to spur competitive availability of broadband Internet services nationwide.

The ruling is consistent with the new administration at the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC), which feels it’s more important for
digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable high-speed access options to
compete directly with each other.

The FCC’s 1999 Advanced
Services Third Report and Order
unbundled voice and data traffic,
allowing competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) and Internet service
providers (ISPs) to provide a competitive DSL service to customers on the
same telephone line.

Before the ruling, competitors were forced to purchase a second phone line
for its customers needing a DSL connection, although the Bells themselves
put DSL on voice lines.

The four Baby Bells — SBC Communications , Verizon
Communications , BellSouth and Qwest
Communications — have spent the past three years trying to
overturn the decision, on the grounds putting voice and data traffic on the
same line could have a serious affect on consumer service.

“The court correctly rejected the FCC’s ‘more is better’ approach when
determining what network elements incumbents must make available,
regardless of the economic impact and regardless of the actual competitive
situation in a given market,” said Jim Ellis, SBC general counsel.

According to Ellis, the ruling means the FCC must follow the standards of
the Telecom Act of 1996, and CLECs will need “make economically rational
decisions about investing in their own networks and their own facilities.”

The appeals court ruling also advises the FCC to rethink its policy on
unbundled network elements (UNEs), which gives CLECs competitive pricing on
certain telephone services provided by the Bells.

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