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.

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