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Supreme Court Takes Broadband Regulation Case

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the and-justice-for-all dept.

The Courts 18

Grotius writes "Reuters reported that the Supreme Court will hear a broadband regulation case that may determine whether FCC regulations apply to cable companies providing broadband services. This case is significant because the Court could determine that cable-based broadband is a 'telecommunications service' subject to FCC rules such as those requiring cable-companies to allow access to independent internet providers. The 9th Circuit has already held that FCC regulations apply to cable-companies providing broadband."

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Toaster-based broadband (1)

boingyzain (739759) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992093)

Do FCC regulations apply to my toaster?

Re:Toaster-based broadband (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10992157)

Only if you use your toaster to disable those annoying "75,000 Hours Free!" CDs that AOL sends you. Personally, I prefer to use a microwave oven [google.com] ...

Re:Toaster-based broadband (2, Interesting)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992250)

Do FCC regulations apply to my toaster?

If your toaster radiates an electric field that could disrupt communications within a 6 inch radius, then yes, I wouldn't be surprised if the FCC chose to exercise supreme dominion over that.

Re:Toaster-based broadband (1)

n00i3 (837196) | more than 9 years ago | (#10994999)

we have 7 students living at our house. Even the dishwasher radiates an electric field. Thank god we are in canada :D

Re:Toaster-based broadband (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10998012)

It's mostly a matter of style and case design. For example, if your toaster has a broad band on it you may come under FCC regulations. If you paint the toaster a solid color you shouldn't have any problems with compliance.

Re:Toaster-based broadband (1)

Grotius (836755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11011606)

Yes, your toaster is subject to FCC regulations. Under the Communications Act of 1934 all interstate communication by toasters using wire or radio or transmission of energy by radio are subject to FCC regulations.

The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio and all interstate and foreign transmission of energy by radio, which originates and/or is received within the United States, and to all persons engaged within the United States in such communication or such transmission of energy by radio, and to the licensing and regulating of all radio stations as hereinafter provided . . .
Section 152 [dinf.ne.jp]

More importantly, if your toaster emits radio frequency radiation that interferes with radio communications it is subject to FCC regulations. Also, if your toaster is electronic, it is subject to FCC regulations.

The Commission may, consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity, make reasonable regulations (1) governing the interference potential of devices which in their operation are capable of emitting radio frequency energy by radiation, conduction, or other means in sufficient degree to cause harmful interference to radio communications; and (2) establishing minimum performance standards for home electronic equipment and systems to reduce their susceptibility to interference from radio frequency energy. Such regulations shall be applicable to the manufacture, import, sale, offer for sale, or shipment of such devices and home electronic equipment and systems, and to the use of such devices.
Section 302a [dinf.ne.jp]

Good or Bad? (1)

ReverendRyan (582497) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992329)

I can't tell if this is good or bad- competition will help prices, but do we want the FCC involved?

Re:Good or Bad? (2, Insightful)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992973)

As near as I can tell from TFA (which is notably sparse on details), the FCC doesn't want to be involved. Which seems to lead to only two possible conclusions: either the FCC should regulate broadband, or the FCC is right. And since I can't imagine that either of those statements is true, I'm really not sure what to think!

Of course, having lived with American politics all my life, I can't say that being faced with two unacceptable choices is a new experience.... :)

Probably Both (2, Funny)

vandon (233276) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992441)

Competition is good, but the FCC has shown that once it starts adding regulations, they don't know when to stop.
Then again, maybe they can get an 'Internet driver's license' regulation passed.
Q1: Do you want to buy a cheap Rolex?
A: Yes
Score: You failed. Please return your computer and cancel your AOL subscription.

CALEA? (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992914)

IANAL, but would this not also invoke CALEA, the federal law requiring that "communications providers" provide accessibility to FBI and other law enforcement for wiretaps? Not only does this raise privacy concerns, but as this is an unfunded mandate, it also likely raises costs. It's a mixed bag (I would be happy to see competition come up, but in most states cable providers are a regulated monopoly and really don't gouge.) I know a lot of people have had trouble with cable providers, but I've used Comcast for quite some time now and been very happy. For the speed, the price is reasonable, and every time there's been a problem it's been fixed by the next day at the longest.

As I said, though, IANAL and I don't know about the CALEA issue. Does anyone know if a finding of common carrier would invoke this?

Re:CALEA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10993099)

Short answer: No.

This case is about an ISP's desire to offer cable-based internet service to customers via another cable company's cable lines. Said ISP can already do this with a phone company's DSL lines. The reason is that the FCC has classified cable internet as an "information service", not a "telecom service", which they have done with DSL. Obviously, consumer groups, telephone companies, and ISPs wanting to offer service via cable cried foul. The 9th cicuit appeals has sided against the FCC (IMO, the proper call), but the appeal is being taken up to the SCOTUS, who has decided to hear the case.

CALEA currently applies to any ISP, and will continue to apply to any ISP regardless of the Court's decision in the case. The case is an issue on access and fair competition, not an issue involving law enforcement and communications privacy.

Re:CALEA? (2, Informative)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 9 years ago | (#10993124)

So far as I knew, CALEA does -not- currently apply to broadband providers, this link from the EFF [eff.org] would seem to indicate the same.

It would seem rather pointless to be "objecting" to something which has already happened...

Re:CALEA? (1)

Grotius (836755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11011035)

I agree with Anonymous Coward's assessment. CALEA is not relevant to the case. The broadband providers only brought up CALEA as a way to show that the FCC's position that broadband is subject to CALEA is inconsistent with the FCC's finding that it is not subject to the Communications Act.

Earthlink, in its opposition [natoa.org] , claimed that the 9th Circuit ruling was consistent with the FCC, DOJ, FBI, and DEA's contention that broadband is subject to CALEA as a "telecommunications service" under that act. (Earthlink Brief at 10).

In its response [usdoj.gov] , the government pointed out that a finding that broadband providers are subject to CALEA but not to the Communications Act is entirely consistent because of the broader definition of "telecommunications service" under CALEA. (Reply at 9).

I do not believe that the FCC has conclusively established that broadband is subject to CALEA. It filed its notice of rulemaking in August 2004. There may still be time for public comment if anyone out there wants to get in their 2c on this issue.

Re:CALEA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10993106)

In most states cable companies do gouge. $45 to $55 per a month for your cable modem "service" is gouging and that is the price in most states.

Likely they will let in the smaller companies (2, Interesting)

infonography (566403) | more than 9 years ago | (#10993182)

Breaking the Ma Bell was good for america, the arguement would hold water here as well. Smaller operators would face what DSL providers face now. Which is poor service that the Babybells pass the buck on, danger of upstream providers i.e. the cable companies sniping their customers like they phone companies do now with DSL customers. Eventual buy outs from the cable companies as the startups work out the bugs in new tech and then get bought up. Cycle of life stuff. All wonderful from my point of view.

Forcing them to let small companies in (1)

ShatteredDream (636520) | more than 9 years ago | (#10997852)

I am all for requiring cable companies to let small companies buy into their system, but it should be at a fair market value. Seriously, the cable companies own the infrastructure and there are only two legitimate options: make them lease it out at cost with joint obligation to support the infrastructure or lease access at a fair market value with minimal obligation to support the infrastructure.

In Australia (1)

cuteseal (794590) | more than 9 years ago | (#10997946)

Australian broadband used to be monopolised by one major telco who owned all the infrastructure, before the ACCC (regulatory body) stepped in.

They still own most of the infrastructure, but are forced to resell to other providers at almost unprofitable wholesale prices. But as a result, almost all the "new" providers sell the same plans - same price, same downloads... what's the point in that? I'd rather go for the big Telco as they're more likely to provide better service and be around in a year's time...

Re:In Australia (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11016269)

Telstra? You should know better. They are well known for their shitty service.

If you're in Australia, Internode is good - $60/month for 16 gigs @ 512k, then shaped. Mirror for everything (unbilled).
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