FCC Sued on Cable-Modem Ruling

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As expected, consumer groups took the Federal Communications Commission to
court Monday over the agency's decision to keep high-speed cable-modem service
an unregulated entity.

The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by the
Media Access Project, the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for
Digital Democracy.

Verizon Communications also filed an appeal, but that was done to preserve
its right to challenge the cable ruling in the event that the FCC decides not to
classify phone-company high-speed data as unregulated information service. The
FCC is studying that issue in a separate proceeding.

'The reason we filed was to protect our argument as we work through the other
proceeding that the two services are alike and should be treated alike,' Verizon
spokesman Bob Bishop said.

The consumer groups' suit claimed that the FCC acted in an arbitrary and
capricious manner by classifying cable-modem service as an information service
not required to carry unaffiliated Internet-access providers.

The groups intend to tell the court at some point that cable-modem service is
properly classified as a telecommunications service subject to open-access
requirements.

'Without nondiscriminatory open access, cable operators retain the legal
right to censor messages, to limit the size and nature of files that can be
uploaded and downloaded and to favor content provided by their commercial
`partners' and `preferred vendors,'' MAP president Andrew Jay Schwartzman said
in a prepared statement.

The FCC issued its classification March 14 after studying the issue for
years. The agency also opened a new rulemaking to decide whether access rules
are necessary or appropriate for cable-modem service, even if it is classified
as an information service.

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