ISPs Challenge FCC Broadband Rules

A group of Internet service providers (ISPs) including EarthLink   and Time Warner Telecom, went to court Friday to challenge Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that free wireline telecom carriers from line-sharing obligations.

At issue is a 2005 FCC decision that put telecoms like Verizon  and AT&T  on an equal regulatory footing with cable modem providers who have no obligation to lease their broadband lines to competitors.

The FCC decided
in 2002 that broadband cable modem operators are not common carriers and
classified them as information services, free of the myriad rules and
regulations that accompany common carrier status. Among those rules are
requirements to share Internet lines with competitors at discounted rates.

After the Supreme Court upheld
the FCC cable modem ruling in 2005, the FCC granted the
same information service classification to Baby Bells’ DSL service, a
decision independent broadband providers say cut effectively them out of the

That decision sparked a number of lawsuits, which an FCC official said had
been consolidated into Friday’s case brought in the Third Circuit Court of
Appeals in Philadelphia.

While the FCC rules allow incumbents to sell access to their DSL lines at
market rates, the ISPs claim Verizon and AT&T are setting the rates too high
to discourage competition.

Time Warner attorney David P. Murray said the decision, which took effect recently, is “going to create havoc.” The Wall Street Journal quoted Murray today as saying that “Ultimately, competitive Internet-access services are going to fall by the wayside” if the regulations remain.

David Needle contributed to this article.

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