Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Why Brand X Case is Important
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments for the Brand X case on March 29. (F2C: Freedom to Connect is March 30 & 31)
Justices Take Up Future of Net Access
from the L.A. Times, March 21, 2005
# A high-court case could affect how consumers get voice and video
[and email, Web browsing, games and other services -- David I]
over high-speed connections.
By James S. Granelli, Times Staff Writer
Jim Pickrell's business — providing Internet service to about 350 residential, government and business customers — may be doomed. But he's not giving up without a fight.
While keeping two dozen servers running and stuffing billing statements into envelopes, the owner and only full-time employee of Brand X Internet Services in Santa Monica also is leading a legal attack on the cable TV industry and federal regulators.
The Brand X challenge has ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming what experts call one of the most important telecommunications cases before the high court in recent years.
Brand X and other Internet service providers, including giant EarthLink Inc., want access to cable TV companies' high-speed connections to serve customers, the way they do over local phone lines.
The Internet companies say access rights are crucial to their survival. Customers are increasingly abandoning slow dial-up connections in favor of high-speed service, which in a majority of cases is sold by cable operators.
The ISPs also contend that a loss to the cable industry would clear the way for approval of a stalled Federal Communications Commission rule giving phone carriers the same right to deny access to Internet service providers. That would leave customers with only cable and phone monopolies to provide Internet service.
The Brand X case reaches even further, experts say. A court decision could affect how customers get other key services, especially voice and video, over their high-speed connections, as well as what competition they'll have and what prices they'll pay.
"I don't know of any telecom case that is so wide-ranging as this one," said Jeff Pulver of Pulver.com Inc.
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