The Supreme Court has handed the cable industry a major victory, ruling earlier today that cable operators don't have to lease access on their broadband pipes to competing high-speed data providers. By a 6-3 margin, the Supreme Court upheld three-year-old FCC rules that shield cable operators from such open-access mandates. In doing so, the high court struck down a 2003 federal appeals court decision that cable Internet service should be bound by telephone-style access rules that require phone companies to lease network access to rival ISPs.
Thus, the ruling likely concludes the sometimes bitter, seven-year battle over proposed cable open access regulations. The FCC must still decide whether broadband providers that own last-mile facilities should share their networks with competitors to foster competition and consumer choice. But few expect the Republican-led Commission, which has championed deregulation, to impose that kind of obligation.
Not surprisingly, NCTA President & CEO Kyle McSlarrow welcomed the Supreme Court decision. In a prepared statement, he called the ruling "a victory for consumers" and argued that it "maintains the momentum to advance broadband in the U.S." McSlarrow added that classifying cable modem service as an unregulated interstate information service, as the FCC has done, "keeps this innovative service on the right deregulatory path."