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High Court to review "Brand X"

Sun, 12/05/2004 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to a weigh in on the decision on whether cable modem service providers must provide access to competing, third-party ISPs.

The court said it would review the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals "Brand X Internet Services vs. FCC" case, which ruled that cable modem services shared elements of telecommunications services. That decision negated a 2002 ruling by the FCC holding that cable modem provided information services and, therefore, were not subject to mandated open access.

The review decision sparked responses on both sides of the argument.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President & CEO Robert Sachs said he was "pleased" with the Supreme Court's decision, and was optimistic that the court would agree with the FCC's original ruling.

"Establishing a deregulatory environment for cable model service is critical to the universal deployment in the U.S. of broadband services, including emerging services such as Voice-over Internet Protocol service," he said.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell also was glad to hear of the High Court review.

"High-speed Internet connections are not telephones, and I'm glad the Supreme Court has agreed to review the 9th Circuit ruling that they are. The 9th Circuit's decision would have grave consequences for the future and availability of high-speed Internet connections in this country," Powell said, in a statement.

The Consumers Union, meanwhile, said it was just as confident that the Supreme Court would uphold the 9th Circuit ruling.

"Consumers should be allowed to enjoy the increased choice and lower prices that come with a more competitive broadband market, as they do in the traditional 'dial-up' Internet market," the Union said, arguing that U.S. consumers pay 30 times as much for high-speed Internet services as the Japanese and 10 times as much as the Koreans.

Powell countered last Thursday that a heavy regulatory hand could cause cable modem fees to rise as much as 10 percent.

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