Seven Years Later, Modem Request Nixed


Acting on a request made nearly seven years ago, the Federal Communications Commission ruled last 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 Internet access provided by cable operators.

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

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