BellSouth Prevails in Conflict over Internet Obligations

In a victory for BellSouth Corp., the FCC has ruled that state regulators cannot require incumbent phone companies to provide high-speed Internet access to a customer over the same network that a rival uses to provide voice services.

In an order released Friday, the FCC said the state rulings are inconsistent with federal rules and policies developed by the commission.

State regulators in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana ordered Atlanta-based BellSouth to provide DSL to customers buying voice services from other carriers over BellSouths network. The state requirements do exactly what the commission expressly determined was not required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC stated in the ruling.

The FCC voted 3 to 2 earlier this month to adopt the order before Michael Powell left the agency as chairman.

FCC commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, the two Democrats on the commission, partly dissented.

The actions taken by Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Georgia do not flat-out conflict with federal rules; they arguably complement them, Adelstein and Copps said in a joint statement. And as a result of this decision, state authority to craft local rules to promote competition is unnecessarily constrained.

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