RBOCs Clear (Another) Regulatory Hurdle
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear three cases related to line sharing. The cases – National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. USTA; AT&T v. USTA; and People of the State of California v. USTA – all endeavored to force RBOCs to share their access lines with competitive carriers at discounted prices.
Instead, the court let stand the rulings of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, which said in March that the FCC didn't justify its line-sharing rules as set out in the 1996 Telecom Act (see Courts Overrule FCC Again ). Because of the Bush Administration's refusal to get involved earlier this year, the Supremes' non-actions weren't terribly surprising (see Courts Overrule FCC Again ).
The United States Telecom Association (USTA), which had skin in all three cases the Supremes declined to hear, spoke for its RBOC members in a statement from president and CEO Walter B. McCormick, Jr.: "Today's action by the Supreme Court should be the final chapter in this tortured saga of instability for the industry. It's time for the Commission to set clear, lawful unbundling rules to bring certainty and clarity to telecom."
Of course, the telecom operators are still skeptical that the Commission can accomplish even the simplest tasks.
"As a general manner of principle... the new technology, the IP-based stuff, should be under a different rule book, and we can go forward on that basis," said Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Ivan Seidenberg, in a conversation with reporters here on Monday. "Of course, I bet you that 90 percent of the regulators would agree to that statement, too. And then they will write rules that will drive you crazy."
The FCC will take the industry stage again tomorrow as it meets to consider several telecom-related topics. The Commission will consider changing the rules governing Access Broadband over Power Line systems. And – does this sound familiar? – it will also discuss requests from BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) and SureWest Communications (Nasdaq: SURW) to reconsider broadband unbundling obligations.
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading