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National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. v. Brand X Internet Services

United States Supreme Court
545 U.S. 967 (2005)


Under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had to decide whether digital subscriber lines (DSL) and cable modem services should be classified as “basic service” or “enhanced service.” Basic service transmits voice or similar “plain language” communications without altering the text, other than as needed to convert it into sendable form and reconvert it to original voice of visual (facsimile) form. Enhanced service includes in addition to transmission of information, any data processing activity that acted “on the content, code, protocol, and other aspects of the subscriber’s information.” The FCC earlier decided that DSL fit into the basic service category. In 2002, the FCC classified other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), include cable modems, as enhanced services. Telephone companies providing DSL services challenged the ruling as arbitrary and capricious, given the differing treatment of DSL and cable modem services.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Concurrence (Breyer, J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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