Commentary

FCC Order Upheld, Could Mean More Broadband Choices

It's no secret that broadband in the U.S. is slower and more expensive than in other countries -- and that's when it's available at all. Some rural residents lack high-speed Internet access altogether, or must purchase satellite service from companies like HughesNet, which was just sued last week for allegedly delivering sub-par speeds.

Even urban residents don't have all that many choices. Many have just two realistic options -- cable modem service or relatively slower DSL service.

But a new federal appeals court decision might improve matters, at least for some apartment building dwellers. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a 2007 Federal Communications Commission order banning cable companies from securing exclusive rights to provide services in apartment buildings.

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The court endorsed the FCC's finding that exclusivity contracts are harmful because they make it impossible for anyone other than incumbents to offer triple play cable/Internet/phone service.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association had challenged the FCC's order, arguing that the 2007 ruling marked an arbitrary reversal from a 2003 decision allowing exclusive contracts.

The appeals court rejected the NCTA's argument, ruling that the FCC had presented "a clear articulation of the concerns driving its change in policy."

"The Commission found that exclusivity agreements would likely raise prices, limit access to certain programming, and delay deployment of fiber optic and broadband technologies," the court wrote.

The ruling could go a long way towards creating more options for some apartment building tenants. Of course, apartment buildings are only one small component of the bigger broadband picture, but at least it's a start.

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