FCC: Bells don't have to share lines

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Federal Communications Commission Republicans Thursday voted to deregulate
telephone-delivered high-speed Internet services despite a bitter dispute over
competition rules for traditional local voice services.

Over dissents of the two Democratic members, the three GOP commissioners
eliminated current rules requiring regional Bell companies such as Verizon
Communications, BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. to lease high-speed
new digital subscriber lines at wholesale rates to competing Internet

The new rules make only existing lines -- primarily old copper wires --
subject to the unbundling requirement. New fiber lines and copper/fiber hybrids
will be exempt from the rules.

Unbundling agreements currently in place, however, will not be disrupted by
the changes.

DSL competitors complained that the Bells will get a stranglehold on
telephone-delivered Internet service if they aren't guaranteed access to
residential subscribers at regulated prices.

Broadband technology is believed to be a potentially important new way for
delivering video programming, including movies, short programs and interactive

Although the decision does not impact cable services directly, it likely
foreshadows cable broadband decisions that the FCC is expected to issue in the
next few months.

The agency is completing a review of temporary cable Internet rules, and
Thursday's ruling indicated that cable-modem services will not face
telephone-style unbundling rules, either.