Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
The Conference Group, LLC v. FCC, et al.
The Conference Group challenged the Commission's decision that the audio bridging services provided by InterCall were properly classified as "telecommunications" under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and thereby obligated it and "similarly situated" providers to contribute directly to the Universal Service Fund (USF), 47 U.S.C. 254(d). The court concluded that the Conference Group had standing to challenge the Commission's decision as procedurally unlawful rulemaking; on the merits, the Commission's decision involved a statutory interpretation that could be rendered in the form of an adjudication, not only in a rulemaking; because the decision was an adjudication and The Conference Group was not a party, it lacked standing to challenge the merits of the adjudication; and, therefore, the court dismissed in part and denied in part The Conference Group's petition for review. View "The Conference Group, LLC v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law
Northern Valley Communications v. FCC, et al.
Northern Valley challenged the FCC's ruling that Northern Valley could not tariff long-distance carriers for calls to Northern Valley's non-paying customers. The court rejected Northern Valley's contention that the FCC's ruling contradicted two previous FCC orders because the FCC construed only the terms of the tariff at issue in those cases, not FCC regulations; the FCC reasonably interpreted and applied the relevant regulations; nothing in the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 153(53), precluded the FCC's approach in this case; and, therefore, the court upheld the FCC's decision that competitive long-distance carriers (CLECs) could not rely on tariffs to charge long-distance carriers for access to CLECs' non-paying customers. Finally, the court upheld the FCC's decision that Northern Valley's 90-day provision violated the two-year statute of limitations. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Northern Valley Communications v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law
Comcast Cable Communications, LLC v. FCC, et al.
Tennis Channel, a sports programming network and intervenor in this suit, filed a complaint against Comcast Cable, a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD), alleging that Comcast violated section 616 of the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 536(a)(3), and the Commission's regulations by refusing to broadcast Tennis as widely as it did its own affiliated sports programming networks, Golf Channel and Versus. An ALJ ruled against Comcast, ordering that it provide Tennis carriage equal to what it afforded Golf and Versus, and the Commission affirmed. The court concluded that Comcast prevailed with its third set of arguments on appeal, that even under the Commission's interpretation of section 616, the Commission had failed to identify adequate evidence of unlawful discrimination. The Commission had nothing to refute Comcast's contention that its rejection of Tennis's proposal was simply "a straight up financial analysis." Accordingly, the court granted the petition. View "Comcast Cable Communications, LLC v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law
American Electric Power Serv. Corp., et al v. FCC, et al
Petitioners challenged the FCC's three revisions to the interpretation of Section 224 of the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 224. Section 224 provided a variety of advantages to certain types of firms seeking to attach their wires, cable, or other network equipment to utility poles. The FCC's Order allowed incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to share the benefits of some of Section 224's provisions; reformulated the ceiling on the rate that pole-owning utilities could charge "telecommunications carriers" seeking to make pole attachments; and moved back the date as of which compensatory damages started to accrue in favor of parties filing successful complaints against utilities. The court upheld the FCC's view that ILECs were "providers of telecommunications services" for purposes of section 224(a)(4). Because the FCC's methodology was consistent with the unspecified cost terms contained in section 224(e), and the FCC's justifications were reasonable, the telecom rate revision warranted judicial deference. Petitioners' arguments regarding the refund period had no serious statutory basis. The court considered petitioners' many subsidiary arguments and found them all to be without merit. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "American Electric Power Serv. Corp., et al v. FCC, et al" on Justia Law
EchoStar Satellite, LLC v. FCC, et al
DISH, a direct broadcast satellite provider, challenged two orders of the Commission because they imposed "encoding rules," which limited the means of encoding that cable and satellite service providers could employ to prevent unauthorized access to their broadcasts. The court held that the FCC's decision to apply these encoding rules exceeded the agency's statutory authority. Consequently, the court need not reach DISH's alternate contention that the decision was arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review. View "EchoStar Satellite, LLC v. FCC, et al" on Justia Law
PMCM TV, LLC v. FCC
Relying on section 331(a) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 331(a), appellant filed an application to reallocate VHF channels from Nevada and Wyoming to New Jersey and Delaware. The FCC denied the application, interpreting section 331(a) to require reallocations of channels only between neighboring locations. Because the Commission's decision conflicted with the statute's text and purpose and because appellant could move its channels without creating signal interference, the court reversed. View "PMCM TV, LLC v. FCC" on Justia Law
Cellco Partnership v. FCC
Recognizing the growing importance of mobile data in a wireless market in which smartphones are increasingly common, the FCC adopted a rule requiring mobile-data providers to offer roaming agreements to other such providers on "commercially reasonable" terms. Verizon challenged the data roaming rule on multiple grounds. The court held that Title III of the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq., plainly empowered the FCC to promulgate the data roaming rule. And although the rule bears some marks of common carriage, the court deferred to the FCC's determination that the rule imposed no common carrier obligations on mobile-internet providers. In response to Verizon's remaining arguments, the court concluded that the rule did not effect an unconstitutional taking and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Cellco Partnership v. FCC" on Justia Law
Rural Cellular Ass’n v. FCC
The Rural Cellular Association and the Universal Service for America Coalition (together the RCA) petitioned for review of an order of the FCC amending he "interim cap rule," which limited at 2008 levels the amount of support available to competitive eligible telecommunications carriers. In the order under review, the FCC amended the interim cap rule to provide that when a carrier relinquishes its status as an eligible communications carrier, the cap on the support available in that carrier's state is reduced by the amount the relinquishing carrier would have received had it retained it status. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the RCA's petition for review, holding that the order was a lawful exercise of the FCC's authority under the Communications Act of 1934 as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, did not violate the agency's regulations, and was neither arbitrary and capricious nor unconstitutional. View "Rural Cellular Ass'n v. FCC" on Justia Law
Gulf Power Co. v. FCC, et al.
Several company operators filed a complaint against petitioner with the FCC, which ruled that petitioner's increased pole attachment rates violated the Pole Attachment Act, 47 U.S.C. 224(d), and the FCC's implementing regulations. Petitioner now sought review of that order, arguing that the Act failed to provide for just compensation under the Fifth Amendment and that the FCC's decision was arbitrary and capricious, or was otherwise not supported by substantial evidence. The court found the doctrine of collateral estoppel a fatal bar to petitioner's assertion of the constitutional issue, and its remaining arguments unavailing. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "Gulf Power Co. v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law
Farmers and Merchants Mutual Telephone Co. v. FCC, et al.
In three challenged orders, the Commission addressed a "traffic pumping" scheme in which the holder of the filed tariff entered into contractual arrangements with conference calling companies and charged the interexchange carrier the tariff rate for providing switched access service. Farmers, the holder of the tariff, petitioned for review. As a threshold matter, Farmers, joined by intervenor, contended that the Commission lacked authority to overturn its decision in Farmers I because it failed, as 47 U.S.C. 405(b) required, to act within 90 days on Qwest's petition for partial reconsideration and consequently, Farmers I became a final appealable order. The court held that the contention was based on a misreading of the statute. The merits question was whether the Commission properly determined that Farmers was not entitled to bill Qwest for access service under Farmers' tariff because Farmers had not provided interstate "switched access service" as that term was defined in Farmers' federal access tariff. The court held that the Commission, upon considering factors within its expertise, could reasonably conclude that Farmers' relationships with the conference calling companies had been deliberately structured to fall outside the terms of Farmers' tariff and therefore reasonably rejected such services as tariffed services. Therefore, deference to the Commission's determination was appropriate. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "Farmers and Merchants Mutual Telephone Co. v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law