Court: Phone cos don't have to share

Earthlink's claim that FCC acted illegally rejected.

In 2003, the FCC issued a ruling that said the RBOC phone companies don't have to offer competitors access to their fiber optic networks. It was essentially an administrative overrule of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which generally requires companies to "unbundle" the infrastructure from the service they offer.

The philosophy behind the FCC's decision was that there would be more investment in advanced networks and services if the phone companies don't have to share their infrastructure with competitiors. Earthlink, the Atlanta-based ISP, had challenged that ruling in court, saying the FCC acted illegally because it hadn't adequately assessed the broadband industry.

Today, reports, a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC's decision.

"The FCC reasonably concluded that the benefits of unbundling were 'modest,'" Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote in a 25-page opinion (PDF) for the three-judge panel.

During oral arguments in May, a lawyer for EarthLink argued that the FCC had behaved illegally in enacting the exemptions because it hadn't adequately assessed the state of competition in the broadband industry.

The judges dismissed those arguments, saying federal law "imposes no particular mode of market analysis or level of geographic rigor."