Los Angeles Times

April 10, 2004 Saturday

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From Lexis Nexis

A court ruling that could have forced cable companies to offer customers a choice of Internet service providers was suspended Friday while regulators and cable companies appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Friday that it granted petitions from the Federal Communications Commission and cable companies for a stay. The appellate court ruled in October that the FCC should have classified high-speed Internet service over cable as a telecommunications service instead of an information service, requiring cable companies to open their networks to rivals.

The appeals court last week refused to reconsider its decision that regulators improperly insulated cable companies from strict regulations.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Assn., which represents major cable operators such as Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp., welcomed Friday's order. "We will now turn our attention to developing our formal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and look forward to having this case decided on its merits," the group's senior vice president, Dan Brenner, said.

The FCC decided in March 2002 that high-speed Internet service from cable companies was an information service, and therefore not immediately subject to access requirements.

The FCC has asked for public comment on whether it should require cable companies to give consumers a choice of Internet service providers. Some cable companies already do so.

ISPs such as EarthLink Inc. hailed the appeals court's original decision as finally giving consumers a choice.