Skip to main content

Telcos May Get Own Brand X

According to an FCC source, an item is currently being circulated among the commissioners that deals with implementing the Supreme Court's decision in Brand X.

The proposal will likely extend similar deregulatory status to telephone companies' delivery of Internet services via digital subscriber lines that the court upheld for cable modem broadband Internet service.

The item could potentially make it to the Aug. 4 meeting agenda, which has activist group Public Knowledge weighing in with its own suggestions.

“The Commission’s actions will shape the broadband future for years to come," says Legal Director Mike Godwin. "Thus, its deregulatory efforts should be implemented in ways that favor the competition inherent in open and accessible networks.”

Of course, the Brand X decision was all about freeing cable from open-access requirements, which the FCC concluded would advance the roll out of broadband, one of the Bush administration's priorities.

Both Chairman Kevin Martin and fellow Republican Kathleen Abernathy applauded the Supreme Court's Brand X decision, while Democrat Michael Copps panned it as providing a "steeper" climb toward consumer protection and universal service. Jonathan Adelstein is likely the swing vote, since he took a middle ground on Brand X, saying it provided "long-awaited guidance on cable broadband modem service," though he added it "should not mean that policymakers turn their backs on American consumers or neglect public safety," the latter being another issue with Copps.

In Brand X, the Supreme Court cleared up a conflict in which the FCC ruled that cable-modem service was an unregulated “interstate information service" exempt from open-access requirements, while a court held that it was, instead, a “telecommunications service” subject to telephone-style access regulations that could ultimately require operators let third-party ISPS sell their service over cable wires.

The telephone industry was quick to ask the FCC to weigh in on its own broadband access status, saying June 27 (the day the decision was handed down): “We applaud the FCC’s victory today and urge policymakers to finish this important job by crafting similar rules for all broadband providers to ensure a consumer-driven, highly competitive and innovative American communications market.”