Seven Years Later, FCC Denies Modem-Resale Request


Acting on a request made nearly seven years ago, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Monday that the Dedham (Mass.) Historical Society and a partner did not have a legal right to resell cable-modem service to society members.

The society, along with nonprofit partner Microscope Associates Inc., wanted to create a bulletin-board system for its members as a demonstration project funded by the National Science Foundation.

But the project entailed some form of resale of cable-modem service provided by Continental Cablevision Inc. (later MediaOne Group Inc., then AT&T Broadband and, now, Comcast Corp.).

The cable company refused to modify the subscriber agreement banning end-user resale, triggering a July 1997 request by Microscope for a ruling that Continental’s denial violated federal law regarding resale and interconnection.

In a five-page ruling, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau declared that acting on Microscope’s request now would be premature due to legal uncertainty surrounding cable-modem service provided by cable operators.

FCC staff said Microscope could refile once the illegal obligations of cable-modem providers were cleared up by the courts.

Further regulatory effort by Microscope seem unlikely, as a company official has informed the FCC that Microscope “is a shell of itself” and no longer perusing the Dedham project.