RealTime IT News

Federal Court Denies Unbundling Review

A federal appeals court denied EarthLink's request to review an FCC ruling exempting Baby Bells from sharing broadband lines with rivals.

Writing for the three-panel appeals court, Judge Janice Rogers Brown said EarthLink's request "misses the mark."

The FCC reasonably concluded the benefits of unbundling were modest," Brown wrote in the 22-page decision.

The court said the FCC's 2004 ruling "reasonably weighed present conditions and future developments in determining what is necessary for just and reasonable rates ..."

EarthLink argued that the earlier FCC decision to reverse its original plan, which forced incumbent Bells to lease their broadband network to rivals, would "reverse decades of communication precedent."

The court rejected this opinion.

Chris Putala, EarthLink's executive vice president for public policy, told internetnews.com that the court refusal means "business as usual."

"We'll continue negotiating our commercial agreements with the RBOCs (regional Bells) to include fiber to the home when we have products and services to deliver," Putala said.

In 2004, the FCC reversed its plans to promote local phone competition, requiring baby Bells to offer portions of their networks to competitors at below-market rates.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act gave the regulatory agency the task of developing rules that called on local phone companies to unbundle parts of their networks.

Those attempts, however, met with a series of court losses.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell said at the time the ruling was "carefully designed to pass judicial muster," as internetnews.com reported.

The FCC's attempt to promote broadband competition came as Bells argued that opening their broadband lines to rivals put them at a disadvantage against cable companies not required to share their networks.

On the other side, companies hoping to use telephone lines to offer DSL competition say reversing the unbundling rules would create a broadband monopoly for Bells.