Justice Dept.: Court erred on cable cap rates

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A lower court got it wrong when it said utility companies don't have to cap rates charged to cable companies that offer Internet service along with TV, the Justice Department told the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The court of appeals not only contradicted the most natural reading" of federal law on pole rates, but also incorrectly rejected the FCC's interpretation," Justice attorneys wrote in a brief Friday. The federal appeals court in Atlanta ruled last year that rate caps apply only to attachments used solely to provide cable service. "That conclusion is mistaken," Justice said. "Courts must defer to the FCC's reasonable constructions of the Communications Act."

The National Cable Television Association also filed a brief supporting the FCC's cap. Following the lower court ruling, utility companies have indicated that they plan to raise cable companies' annual per pole charges from roughly $5 to as much as $40. Utility companies will file their replies to the Supreme Court June 5. - Bill McConnell

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