Supreme Court To Investigate If AT&T Is Violating Antitrust Laws With Wholesale DSL Pricing
from the competition? dept
In most cases, antitrust rules seem fairly bogus. They often are used to try to punish companies for being successful, even if they’re not actually abusing any kind of monopoly situation. However, there are some cases where antitrust laws become a lot more interesting, when it comes to governments effectively granting monopoly rights to certain companies. That’s what’s happened with many telco services, where the government has basically provided monopoly “rights of way” to certain companies to put down infrastructure in places that no other company can. These rights of way were supposed to come with “common carrier” status, that would require the provider to allow equal access, without discrimination, even to companies that might “compete” in some manner or another with the core infrastructure provider. A few years back, however, the FCC made sure to classify broadband services as information services rather than telco services — even if they were using the same infrastructure. This was great for the telcos, since information services weren’t subject to common carrier restrictions like telco services were.
Yet, those broadband services still benefited from those rights of way, and they used their new found lack of restrictions to raise wholesale prices to smaller ISPs who offered services on their networks. A series of lawsuits followed, including an appeals court ruling that found that AT&T was abusing monopoly rights to offer prices that were simply out of line with market pricing — making it effectively impossible for any other provider to compete. AT&T has appealed and now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. This could be very important, as it could force a company like AT&T, which relies on these government granted rights of way, to offer up access to their network to potential competitors who could offer more reasonably priced services. This also could have a major impact on both the overall competitiveness of broadband in the US as well as network neutrality — since having more competition would make it harder for AT&T and others to violate net neutrality.