IN BRIEF

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FCC cable-modem ruling goes to court

Public-advocacy groups and ISP Earthlink asked the federal appeals court in Washington to strike down an FCC policy allowing cable franchises to keep competing Internet providers off their broadband networks. Separately, Verizon also asked the court to review the decision because it wants the same favorable treatment as cable operators for its high-speed digital subscriber lines. Unlike cable systems, regional phone monopolies face an access mandate for DSL. On March 14, the FCC declared that cable modem service is an "information service," which places nearly all oversight of the business with the FCC and very little with local regulators. The decision does give the FCC authority to impose access obligations later, but the panel decided to continue a hands-off policy.

Comsat loses bid for fee exemption

Comsat's legal bid to escape FCC regulatory fees was rejected by federal appeals judges. The FCC removed Comsat's longstanding exemption after Congress enacted the Open Market Reorganization for the Betterment of International Telecommunications Act in March 2000. The FCC assessed Comsat's space fee at $1.6 million.

Although the judges did not specify the fee, they did suggest that the $1.6 million assessment bore "no relation" to regulatory costs of Comsat's role as the U.S. signatory to Intelsat, the international satellite consortium. The judges suggested that the cost of regulating Comsat amounted to $442,000 and noted that the FCC has remained open to re-evaluating it. Broadcast networks contract with Comsat for relay of cross-continent transmissions.

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