Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Federal appeals court rejects telco's bid to dismiss anti-trust action brought by competing ISPs

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a bid by SBC Communications (now AT&T) to toss out a federal anti-trust action brought by four California Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The ISPs sued the telco claiming it jacked up wholesale prices charged competing ISPs for access to its lines in order to subject the ISPs to a "pricing squeeze" as part of a scheme to drive consumers to SBC's proprietary retail DSL services.

The federal appellate court decision affirms a U.S. district ruling that the suit could proceed as an anti-trust action under the Sherman Antitrust Act. SBC unsuccessfully argued that the action was barred by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Verizon Communications, Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, 540 U.S. 398 (2004). In Trinko, the Supreme Court held that the Sherman Act doesn't apply to Verizon's failure to deal fairly with a competing ISP. A customer of one of Verizon's competitors alleged Verizon engaged in anticompetitive practices by discriminatorily delaying orders placed by customers of Verizon’s competitors that Verizon was required to fill by the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The Sept. 11 ruling comes as AT&T and other telcos have requested the Federal Communications Commission to relieve them from the requirement that they continue making their lines available to competing ISPs under the 1996 Act, according to this recent post at Broadband Reports.com. The FCC is expected to act on the requests this week.

The full ruling by the Ninth Circuit in Linkline Communications et. al. v. SBC California, et. al. can be read here.

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