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Supreme Court Refusal Means ISPs Are Not Common Carriers 87

Masem writes "In another Supreme Court refusal to hear a case, a ruling from a lower court stands that AOL and other ISPs are not considered to be common carriers (akin to telephone and cable services), and therefore may not be regulated by the FCC. This can be taken both ways, but moreso on the better side: ISP competition will still be a major factor, helping to keep connection prices low."
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Supreme Court Refusal Means ISPs Are Not Common Carriers

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  • This is an especially salient point with respect to the case at issue in this article. The ISP here is AOL, which is certainly traditionally far more than a simple ISP. AOL has for years provided not just "internet" service, but their own network and supposedly value-added services. To be a common carrier and still an ISP, I'd assume that the ISP offered only PPP (or other transparent-seeming) connections to the internet, maybe a mailbox, and maybe disk space for a web page, but absolutely nothing else.
  • Verizon owns half of the west coast too since they were Bell Atlantic (Northeast) and GTE (northwest, midwest) before the merger. So I agree, something needs to keep them from gouging everyone.
  • In this fuckin' country? The owner of a building could be sued for 'pain and suffering' if somebody farts in the elevator.

    I'm considering options for getting the hell out of this country the way things are going.

  • What about cable isp's like @Home, Roadrunner, MediaOne? Does this apply to them.

  • what's that sound I hear? hell's bells?
    I'm thunderstruck.

  • I don't see how Napster could be considered a common carrier in any case, given that they don't actually carry anything. However, that doesn't mean that they don't have legal immunity. Read the DMCA.
  • Actually I was referring to their majority stake in @Home which in turn has a majority stake in every cable modem provider a sense there is nothing to stop @Home from offering TV and telephone service and then giving AT&T a pretty big jump on being the only coast-to-coast provider of TV/phone/data over one wire.

    But that's just speculation. I'm sure DSL is planning the same thing...just over twisted pair instead of coax.

    - JoeShmoe

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -
  • Haven't we been arging all aong that ISP's should be considered Commmon Carries

    I think that heavily depends on the service which is offered by the provider. When talking email contents I think it should be indeed included in the carrier 'rules' but when websites are concerned its a totally different issue IMHO.

  • This leads us to the ugly: AOL. Everyone knows that the next big thing will be merging cable and internet and phone services.
    Actually, that might be good... If they were to merge, the FCC might be able to manage them by dint of the telecom (cable/phone) aspects of the company. On the other hand, it might just get ugly as to what the FCC can or can't regulate within a merged net/telecom entity.
  • Let the masses in!

    Oh wait, never mind. I don't want that.
  • You're confusing government mandated monopolies and all monopolies. Standard Oil was a monopoly due to the fact that it had a monopoly over the market, not due any laws/regulations protecting it from competition. Microsoft is not a government mandated monopolies, yet...
  • Censorship has nothing to do with common-carrier status. Newspapers are censored all the time (via obscenity law), and they're hardly a common carrier. Town ordinances regulate what sort of advertising you can hang in your shop window, but that doesn't make your window a common carrier. Libraries already are seeing the imposition of censorware, and they're not common carriers.
  • by delmoi ( 26744 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @02:33PM (#737996) Homepage
    Uh, read the DMCA again, it says that ISP's are *not* responsible, although they do need to remove content that might be infringing if notified of the infringement, while the owner of the content is notified. without the DMCA, and with this decision, means that ISP *could* be sued for infringing content. the DMCA isn't all *that* bad, as far as ISPs go. This decision would actually make things worse for ISPs, since they are not common carriers, they have no common carrier immunity. They do however have DMCA granted immunity.

    And look at the last FCC ruling, now TVs/VCRs without copy protection. If we granted the FCC power over the 'net, they could unilaterally ban napster/gnutella/whatever else without any kind of legislative action.
  • We've had similar rulings in the UK in particular the Dr Godfrey vs Demon Internet [] libel case.

    (For Demon commentary see : Demon Response [])

    Fundamentally it was ruled that Demon were not a common carrier and thus liable for the content of their news-groups.

    For a litigous country like the US this is very bad news. Think of all those fundamentalist states which will be suing ISPs for corrupting their children's minds with disgusting pornography, violence etc.

    I'd lobby your congressmen to get this sort of decision reversed, it can only lead to heavier censorship, and the winning of the ISP game by bland behemoths like AOL.

  • The FCC has no ruling power over the internet no matter what the courts in the USA decide. The internet is not made up of purely the united states.

    On the flip side, this would mean that the majority of the net familar to people could be open to being closed down if the content of these areas comes into question.

    Is this decision good? Well, at a thought - if the FCC were to regulate any service that offered internet communications technology, then
    A: The FCC could decide what tools are available (like telnet) and what these services could cost... in the United States. This could change the face of networking in that country
    B: Other countries could choose to take the same actions or to argue against.

    Be aware that as soon as the data crosses national boundaries (such as into Canada where I live) a different set of laws and restrictions come into play. Canada does NOT have the concept of a common carrier or any protection for such.

    But for everyone's sakes - do not take the arrogant view that any US decisions means ANYTHING to the internet. Or to its architects. It just affects one small country of thousands.

    But also be aware that this decision could be a blow in favour of those idiots who want to legislate content restrictions or rules.

    We shall see what happens.
    G'day, eh? :)
    - Winterlion

  • Basicly usenet has been protected because the carriers are common carriers. They cant be held responsible for the content. Now this changes that. That means ISP's can be sued for any content in any newsgroup wether or not it originated on there server. Guess the RIAA and that whiner lars from Metalica are gonna have to sue all the ISP's now.
  • We should at least enslave the people with no senses of humor.

  • I could be mistaken though...

  • The FCC has repeatedly said Internet companies are not common carriers because they provide "enhanced" services rather than basic communication services, the appeals court said.

    What if I started up an ISP that only connected people to the internet? No email address, no mail servers, no shell accounts, nothing. Just a dialup connection. I would keep no more logs that I would need to operate and that I would be legally required to as a common carrier. Would the FCC the contend that I'm not a common cariar because I'm providing some sort of "enhanced" service? It seems to me that the FCC needs to reasses their description of ISP's. Unless C|Net chnged the meanign of the FCC's statement to make it more interesting for the article, of course.

    Mr. Spey

    "When you stumble, you may regain your balance
    by jumping beyond the thing that tripped you."
    - Frank Herbert
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @01:07PM (#738003) Homepage
    As far as I can tell, there are two different definitions of "common carrier" in the US Code: one that affects the FCC, and one that affects copyright law (and thus, DMCA).

    47 USC 153(10) [] (telegraphs, telephones, radiographs)

    • The term ''common carrier'' or ''carrier'' means any person engaged as a common carrier for hire, in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio or interstate or foreign radio transmission of energy, except where reference is made to common carriers not subject to this chapter; but a person engaged in radio broadcasting shall not, insofar as such person is so engaged, be deemed a common carrier.
    17 USC 512 [] (Copyright:DMCA)
    • A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider's transmitting, routing, or providing connections for, material through a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, or by reason of the intermediate and transient storage of that material in the course of such transmitting, routing, or providing connections, if -

    • (1) the transmission of the material was initiated by or at the direction of a person other than the service provider;
      (2) the transmission, routing, provision of connections, or storage is carried out through an automatic technical process without selection of the material by the service provider;
      (3) the service provider does not select the recipients of the material except as an automatic response to the request of another person;
      (4) no copy of the material made by the service provider in the course of such intermediate or transient storage is maintained on the system or network in a manner ordinarily accessible to anyone other than anticipated recipients, and no such copy is maintained on the system or network in a manner ordinarily accessible to such anticipated recipients for a longer period than is reasonably necessary for the transmission, routing, or provision of connections; and
      (5) the material is transmitted through the system or network without modification of its content.
    This ruling was on telephones, so it probably doesn't affect the DMCA?
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @01:10PM (#738004)
    I do agree that not hearing the case is not the same as approving or disapproving of the lower court ruling.

    However, until a different case enters the SC arena, the lower court ruling stands in the lower court's region. I believe that the original suers were from TX, meaning that the ruling that AOL and ISPs in general aren't common carriers only applies to (pretty much) TX.

    It also gives some legal precident for actions in other states if it warrents it. This case, not so much so, but take the DeCSS case, ruled in the NY circuit court. ONLY in this area does the Kaplan ruling apply, but if the MPAA wanted to go after someone in Seattle, they have a good start on a prior case. Sure, the judge for that district need not follow Kaplan's ruling, either.

    As you said, the ruling means not much more than nothing. It does state the lower court ruling stands, and that it is sound. But it also implies that there is nothing in the ruling or the case that trends on established US Constitional rights or laws. In cases where the answer should be obvious to techies, the SC saying nothing is a good thing, and possibly shows that they do have some understanding of technology and where it is going. It's cases where the SC refuses to hear the case, and the case itself is iffy (Sony vs Connectix is a good example), then there's questions of why the SC didn't take it, and not taking it may lead to more harm than good depending on the lower court ruling. What if, after appeals, the SC let Kaplan's ruling stand on 2600 because they didn't want to take it?

  • So the Supreme Court has decided to go and not hear another case we all care about for appeal. What does this mean to us? Well one of the most important things it means is that the court will stay out of this arena entirely, or wait for a more clearly defined case to make its stand on. We could look at possibility two, that a son/daughter/friend of a justice has represented one of the parties in years past for large sums of money and doesn't want to break this cash cow The most important thing to remember is that in the next coming election the next president gets to fill what looks to be 2 supreme court seats. So why is it so important to vote? Well we have the Monopoly style cases, any new emerging technology , Religion in school, Abortion, all these things are rapidly coming to a point to change drastically if we all don't put a candidate in office with out views on these issues. A president does little IMHO, but this is where his mark last, and we should make sure they know what we want. We have money, we have power, and we should make it clear that we want out voice represented.
  • by levendis ( 67993 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @02:50PM (#738006) Homepage
    If its not the FCC, its going to be someone else.
    Wherever there is the potential for lots of money to be made, a big corporation (or a few big corps) will arise and try to capitalize on it. Don't fool yourself by thinking "The 'Net is different! They can never regulate that!!" History dictates that every mass communication medium (print, radio, TV...) eventually comes to be ruled by a few, powerful corporations. The Net will not be any different....
  • Sure, there are some frivolous lawsuits that are started in the States, but most of the time they are threatening cease and decist orders or they are just intimidation letters/emails. Very rarely, especially to small companies like local ISPs, will a judge care enough to even see it.
  • Prepare for ISP User Policy agreements to begin having some pretty mean two-way "hold harmless" clauses in them. You'll be made to agree that you, or any of your related parties, can not sue the ISP for any data they deliver to you which "harms" you in any way (i.e. your bible-thumping grandma, who is also a lawyer, has a heart attack due to seeing some shocking porn that pops up on your web browser while she's surfing on your computer and your ISP account and accidently mis-types a URL).

    You'll also have to agree to accept legal responsibility for defending the ISP if any information eminating from your account or your actions (i.e. your personal web pages hosted on their server) "harms" anyone else, who sees them and decides to seek action against the ISP.
  • becoming a vertical monopoly isn't part of the FCC jursidiction, that comes under the FTC. And just because something falls under the FCCs regulation for one thing, it can also fall under the FTC for anti-trust issues (ie AT&T).
  • So does this mean I will not be able to be monopolized by AOL? How disappointing. And I was looking forward to paying hourly rates for bottom of the barrel internet service!
  • Hmph. Not a bad idea. I mean, I realize it is pure sarcasm, but isn't that what is happening already? Illegal aliens work for less than minimum wage and have limited constitutional rights. You do have a point there. How often do people rationally challenge the constitution? Should people really have all of those rights? No. Are all men (and not women!) created equal? No. Are thoughts dangerous? Yes. Just some ideas to question before assuming the bill of rights is worth the paper it's printed on.

    Mao wants YOU!

    Unto the land of the dead shalt thou be sent at last.
    Surely thou shalt repent of thy cunning.
  • Yeah, well, hopefully it won't be AT&TAOLTimeWarnerMicrosoftNBC doing it....
  • It was my understanding that the Telecommunications Act of '96 already did that. In fact, ATT Broadband (nee ATT Cable, nee TCI) already offers digital phone service to customers in my area which traditionally was only Verizon (nee GTE). That means that the market is already open. We just have to make sure that they don't all merge and make the 1996 law obsolete.
  • The problem is that without common carrier protection for ISPs you could sue other people's ISPs for delivering content. If you send an offensive E-mail or set up an offensive web site and your ISP could be held liable and sued by whomever you sent the E-mail to or by the hot-tempered and protective parent whose kid visited your porn/bomb making site. That's what people are worried about.

    I guess there is an up-side here in avoiding some regulation, but opening up the possibility that ISPs could be sued for the actions of their users strikes me as a bigger down-side.

  • Holding ISPs liable for the content they transmit gives them unlimited powers of censorship. Then all that need be done to put us right back into the dark ages of centralized mass media is centralization of ISPs -- which is happening with AOL right now, not surprisingly, with the help of a conglomerate of mass media companies such as Time magazine, Warner Brothers Studios and Cable News Network.

    This is the scenario I predicted in my 1982 white paper on computer conferencing [] and its a nasty scenario indeed. Wars have been fought over less than what is implied by a company like AOL telling us what we can say in public.

    The question at hand is this: How do we mold the early videotex environment so that noise is suppressed without limiting the free flow of information between customers?

    The first obstacle is, of course, legal. As the knights of U.S. feudalism, corporate lawyers have a penchant for finding ways of stomping out innovation and diversity in any way possible. In the case of videotex, the attempt is to keep feudal control of information by making videotex system ownership imply liability for information transmitted over it. For example, if a libelous communication takes place, corporate lawyers for the plaintiff will bring suit against the carrier rather than the individual responsible for the communication. The rationalizations for this clearly unreasonable and contrived position are quite numerous. Without a common carrier status, the carrier will be treading on virgin ground legally and thus be unprotected by precedent. Indeed, the stakes are high enough that the competitor could easily afford to fabricate an event ideal for the purposes of such a suit. This means the first legal precedent could be in favor of holding the carrier responsible for the communications transmitted over its network, thus forcing (or giving an excuse for) the carrier to inspect, edit and censor all communications except, perhaps, simple person-to-person or "electronic mail". This, in turn, would put editorial control right back in the hands of the feudalists. Potential carriers' own lawyers are already hard at work worrying everyone about such a suit. They would like to win the battle against diversity before it begins. This is unlikely because videotex is still driven by technology and therefore by pioneers.

    The question then becomes: How do we best protect against such "legal" tactics? The answer seems to be an early emphasis on secure identification of the source of communications so that there can be no question as to the individual responsible. This would preempt an attempt to hold the carrier liable. Anonymous communications, like Delphi conferencing, could even be supported as long as some individual would be willing to attach his/her name to the communication before distributing it. This would be similar, legally, to a "letters to the editor" column where a writer remains anonymous. Another measure could be to require that only individuals of legal age be allowed to author publishable communications. Yet another measure could be to require anyone who wishes to write and publish information on the network to put in writing, in an agreement separate from the standard customer agreement, that they are liable for any and all communications originating under their name on the network. This would preempt the "stolen password" excuse for holding the carrier liable.

    Beyond the secure identification of communication sources, there is the necessity of editorial services. Not everyone is going to want to filter through everything published by everyone on the network. An infrastructure of editorial staffs is that filter. In exchange for their service the editorial staff gets to promote their view of the world and, if they are in enough demand, charge money for access to their list of approved articles. On a videotex network, there is little capital involved in establishing an editorial staff. All that is required is a terminal and a file on the network which may have an intrinsic cost as low as $5/month if it represents a publication with "only" around 100 articles. The rest is up to the customers. If they like a publication, they will read it. If they don't they won't. A customer could ask to see all articles approved by staffs A or B inclusive, or only those articles approved by both A and B, etc. This sort of customer selection could involve as many editorial staffs as desired in any logical combination. An editorial staff could review other editorial staffs as well as individual articles, forming hierarchies to handle the mass of articles that would be submitted every day. This sort of editorial mechanism would not only provide a very efficient way of filtering out poor and questionable communications without inhibiting diversity, it would add a layer of liability for publications that would further insulate carriers from liability and therefore from a monopoly over communications.

    In general, anything that acts to filter out bad information and that is not under control of the carrier, acts to prevent the carrier from monopolizing the evolution of ideas on the network.

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @04:02PM (#738016) Homepage Journal
    But like radio, the corporations cannot rule the net without government power. So as long as it is not regulated by the state "for the good of society" then no one can gain control.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't this extremly bad for services such as Napster and Gnutella? If an ISP can't claim commen carrier status, what hope does Napster have?

    T. Lee
  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @12:40PM (#738018) Homepage Journal
    this makes it *very* important that the DMCA be overturned. Since now ISPs can and (if the law is not changed) will be held responsible for content flowing over their lines and setting on their servers. This could be good but only if the DMCA is done away with.
  • As I understand it, if you are not a common carrier, you are wide open to legal action from your customers.

    For instance, I go to, and I'm offended by what I see. Do I complain to, or do I sue my ISP for delivering that content?

    This could mean that ISP's will become paranoid, and you, the customer, will only be able to see what they feel will not alarm you. Peril Sensitive ISP Anyone?
  • Keep the masses out!


  • Yes, this may be great and all for the reason stated, that "ISP competition will still be a major factor, helping to keep connection prices low." BUT! - this should also be construed as the court saying that they are out of the purview of the FCC completely, therefore, the FCC cannot weigh in on forcing an opening of AOL IM to others who wish to enter the space currently monopolized by AOL's refusal to open same.
  • The Good: ISP's aren't responsible for content.

    The Bad: ISP's can't be regulated by the FCC.

    This leads us to the ugly: AOL. Everyone knows that the next big thing will be merging cable and internet and phone services.
  • by Darlok ( 131116 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @12:49PM (#738023)
    This probably makes a very important point. Since I've not seen the word-for-word definition of ISP in any of these suits, I think the Supreme Court was very wise in letting the ruling stand without comment. Tons of companies provide Internet access to their employees, apartment residents drop in broadband lines and share the costs among several block residents, etc etc etc...

    Keeping the FCC out of the ISP regulation trade is great. Sure, we have to deal with mega-providers trying to arm wrestle eachother and the consumers, but it also prevents the big guys from filing bulls**t lawsuits against little guys who would technically all be subject to the same regulation.

    As an aside, does anyone else see a parallel to what's going on in Telecom/Internet these days and the movie Demolition Man? -- ... after the franchise wars, now all ISPs are AOL...

  • It also means that the government can't do anything dumb, like mandate censorware... It would be nice if this covered court orders to remove pages, but I don't think it will.
  • Yeah, looks like the good ole days are over. Sigh.


  • as rjh [] said in responce to previous article [] a refusal to hear does not mean they agree with the ruling.
    There is a multitude of possible reasons to decline a request. What follows is his original positing, reprinted without permission:

    This is something which arises so frequently that it's become a major annoyance to the Court. The Court will deny cert ("deny cert" == "refuse to hear arguments") on a case, and presto, the popular press and most of America thinks that means anything.

    It means nothing.

    Denying cert only means the Court won't hear arguments. It doesn't mean the Court thinks the legal reasoning is correct; it doesn't mean the Court is approving the lower court's decision; it doesn't mean anything .

    Many cases are denied cert because their legal issues are not as clear as the Court would like ("bad cases make for bad law", as the axiom goes), or the Court wants to give it a few years to let legal scholarship tackle the issues, or the Court thinks this is an issue which Congress will soon issue "direction" (read: legislation) on, or... any of dozens of reasons.

    It is tremendously unwise to think that the Court's denial of cert means anything, no matter what the Court says in their response.

    Don't get happy; the Court hasn't done anything for us.


    This message brought to you by Colin Davis

  • by LNO ( 180595 )
    The doctor said I was a common carrier, but that was just because I infected everyone at the office. I guess the upside of this is that I can't be regulated by the FCC.

    Typhoid Mary, eat your heart out.

  • Don't you mean...

    The Bad: ISP's are responsible for content.

    The Good: ISP's can't be regulated by the FCC.
  • Even though the court chose not to listen to it, this also opens up the possibility that they are responsible for the content flowing through it. However, would any person be isane enough to actually sue their ISP for "delivering" this content? Sure, it may mean it's possible, but the actual chances of this happening are microscopically low.
  • Just administer IQ tests before allowing the masses to connect.

    Smart masses Online... Dumb asses off!

  • Ahh. Here, in the ruling []:
    • Plaintiffs claimed merely that AOL enacted an improper license agreement. The ownership of copyrights is not at issue, and Plaintiffs have not claimed any infringement, or requested relief, under the Copyright Act.
    That's the only mention of 17 USC in the whole ruling, the rest of the common carrier stuff is only about 47 USC, so I'm pretty sure that the DMCA still stands.
  • it is absolutely bad for napster, gnutella and all the rest that don't have the giant public profiles. but napster will be sunk long before it needs to worry about this.


  • the FCC cannot weigh in on forcing an opening of AOL IM to others who wish to enter the space currently monopolized by AOL's refusal to open same.

    Which is good, because it's FUCKING STUPID precedent to set to start forcing companies to open up code.

    Open source is NOT something you can force on people. It's a great idea, but it's a decision that is UP TO THE PEOPLE THAT WROTE THE CODE. It's not up to you, I or the government to decide that.

    In a lot of situations, open source would just plain kill of the product or (at the very least) kill off the company making the product. (And no, this is NOT a good thing).

    You doubt? Imagine this: a company that sells ultra-high-end, very 'aimed-to-satisfy-a-tiny-market' software for $80,000 a license. They sell maybe 300 copies a year.. now imagine them being forced to open their source. How long do you think they would be able to keep selling the software?

  • only applies to (pretty much) TX

    Not particularly. Texas is part of the Fifth Circuit [] (helloooo Judge Jerry Buckmeyer), not the Ninth. According to the Ninth Circuit's website [], they "[include] all federal courts in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands."

    That means that the decision only really applies to the Ninth Circuit. Now, it would provide a great prior-case background for a suit in another Circuit, but that judge is not bound by judicial law to rule the same way.


  • On the other hand, being recognized as a common carrier, makes it impossible for an ISP to participate in, for example, any sort of anti-spam blacklisting.
  • Sure. And let's make people take tests before they can get their Constitutional rights. If they don't then lets enslave them. At least we'll have cheap labor.

  • by CoreDump ( 1715 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @01:25PM (#738037) Homepage Journal
    No, not really, but thanks for pretending to know what you're talking about.

    This in no way means that "ISPs will be held responsible for content flowing over their lines". What this means is that ISPs do not meet the definition of a Common Carrier under the specific use in the 1934 Communications Act. The only impact of this is that it means the FCC is not responsible for regulating the ISP industry in the same manner that it regulates the Telecom industry.

    AOL and other ISPs may certainly meet other definitions of a Common Carrier ( ala UPS, FedEx, etc. ). *That* has yet to be decided.

    ------------------------------------------------ ------------

  • actually, due to the deregulation of the telecomm industry, they can already do that... they still won't be a monopoly, because there is now competition.
  • 1. Competition? Get real. You think another cable company can lay miles and miles of wire for broadband access in the same city as Time Warner? This is monopoly, not competition. Had they been deemed a common carrier, TW would have to allow other ISPs access to their lines. All this does is mean for millions of broadband subscribers they will be regulated by AOL. Oh Joy.

    2. As far as liability - my personal belief is that it is in the common good that ISPs not be liable for conduct. Nowhere should private indestry be given the responsibility of censorship.

    3. FCC regulation is the only thing that could prevent bundling of broadband and say, premium TV channels. Now if you want TW broadband - you need to get HBO, Starz and all that other junk they are losing to teh satellite/DSS market.

    I don't see how this can be beneficial for anyone except AOL/TW. And here is a hint: if it is good for a corporation, it is usually bad for the consumer.

  • Will this mean a continuance of low-priced telecommunication over IP? If so, I see this as pretty good. I like being able to call Japan and Europe for the cost of a local call...


  • It seems that this refusal to hear the case, and upholding the rulling that ISPs aren't common carriers might have two interesting outcomes:

    1. AOL can't be regulated by FCC to release the AIM source. Take it whatever way you want, but FCC won't be able to add that as a requirement for merger, as the ISP isn't part of their jurisdiction, only cable services.

    2. Napster would not be considered a common carrier, as it is providing something more than just the bare-bone connection of the telephones. This would probably be bad news for Napster, as that was their chief defense.

    Any other possible effects are also possible.

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @04:19PM (#738042) Homepage Journal
    AT&T was not a monopoly because they were big. They were a monopoly because the government (a combination of local, state and national) had regulations that prevented anyone else from getting into the industry.
  • Hmmm, instead of adding to the pile of regulations, perhaps we could get rid of some that are already there and solve the problem. Bell Atlantic and GTE customers (as well as I, a Pacific Bell customer) have no choice as to their local telephone provider. This isn't because these companies are big, but because the law forbids any competition with them.

    Remove the regulations that prohibit entry into the local telco market and the problem is solved. It will quicly become a nightmare house of cards if regulations keep getting imposed in an effort to solve the problems of prior regulations. Food is a much more vital commodity than telephone lines, yet I am allowed the liberty to choose my grocer, but I cannot choose my local telephone service.
  • I just want any broadband to come out my way. I'm rural yes...but I'm 15 minutes from 2 cities. cable, dsl, satelite.......soemone get me outta 56k hell!

  • Removal of the common carrier status of the ISP's is just another way to crew over the little guy over what is discussed online. Protect your rights! Make your messages encrypted! Mancow and the Free Speech Radio Network - 1-888-2-MANCOW []
  • It means nothing.

    Yeah. Furthermore, it should be added that today was the first day of the SC's new session -- hundreds of cases were denied cert today. This is how it works. First throw out the frivolous stuff. I'm not going to count, but there's about thirty cases listed per page, and the list of cases they're not going to hear is about sixty pages long.

    Do the math.

  • Or maybe you could just stay away from stuff that offends you, and not try to silence all that you disagree with through frivoluos court cases. But hey, not everybody's reasonable.
  • Do you really believe that? Why do you think the DMCA was passed? For the good of society?
  • People are making a big deal out of the fact that the next Pres. will likely appoint 2 justices to the Supreme Court. While this is important, it is not unusual. Billy C. appointed 2, as did George Bush. Reagan appointed 3 (4 if you count appointing Rehnquist as Cheif Justice - he was already a Justice). Carter was the only President in the last 131 years (Andrew Johnson) to not appoint a Justice to the Supreme Court.
  • "Smart masses"? What's the color of the sun in your world?


  • by Anonymous Coward
    regulating the internet has been so successful in the past.

    disclaimer: i hate the FCC passionately. if you're going to broadcast radio waves that travel through my body, i'll be damned if i'm not going to listen to them.
  • FCC cannot weigh in on forcing an opening of AOL IM

    The FCC can weigh in on anything they feel like. Also, the force is being applied because they want permission to become a huge vertical monopoly/behemoth, not simply because they cornered the IM market..
  • Haven't we been arging all aong that ISP's should be considered Commmon Carries -- becauase being so makes them less liable for content -- and hence less likely to have to respond to a court order to block certain things.

    What's the *right* thing here? I don't think we can have our cake and eat it too.

    Another angle -- I don't think that this really says that all ISP's are not common carriers. I'm reading more that AOL isn't a common carrier becuase it provides unique services and content. a "real" ISP is only providing the bandwidth and certain infrastructure - i.e. DNS (akin to 411)

  • This leads us to the ugly: AOL. Everyone knows that the next big thing will be merging cable and internet and phone services.

    AT&T will get there before AOL does. Lucent makes the hardware. AT&T already has cable in place. Several companies which will go unnamed (but one of them has its name in common with a liquor) are working on putting telephony into a cable set-top box. Uh-oh, AT&T is already a local carrier in some areas, is also a long distance carrier, provides some of the backbone, provides home (phone) internet access, provides buisness internet access, does cable, AND cable internet.

    Just this one, I really don't think it's AOL you have to worry about. It's the death star.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think we should hold Slashdot accountable for this blatant factual error.
  • green. very, very green.

    Really though, considering how many dumb people are on the internet, three or four smart ones could be considered an 'intelligent mass'

  • In another Supreme Court refusal to hear a case...

    Man, those justices are lazy!

  • So even though ISPs can perform the function of both telecommunications AND cable services...they should not be bound by the rules and regulations of either?

    How...comforting. All AT&T has to do is start running their phone service over their coast-to-coast @Home and look! I'm not a national monopoly again! I'm an ISP!

    - JoeShmoe

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -
  • I guess I was a bit out of line... The internet is free for everyone to use, regardless of intelligence or how much money you have.

    As a token of my sincerity, I have here a great modem for you. It can transmit 14 THOUSAND, 4 HUNDRED bps. Doesn't that sound a lot better than the 56k you have now? I thought so...

  • by gavinhall ( 33 ) on Monday October 02, 2000 @01:41PM (#738060)
    Posted by polar_bear:

    The FCC regulating Internet services is the very last thing I would ever want to see. They should not be able to regulate ISPs or anything on the Internet anyway - the whole excuse for the FCC is that radio and televison frequencies are limited commodities and therefore need to be regulated and divvied up by the government - to make sure radio stations don't try to lay claim to a frequency by just squatting there, for instance. However, the FCC has gone far beyond that and has really fubared radio for everyone. Ever wonder why all radio sounds alike? It's probably because most radio stations are owned by conglomerates that just apply cookie-cutter formulas to stations, and corporations are now allowed to own more stations in one area than ever before.

    In the early days of radio it was a fairly democratic medium, the barriers to entry were small and many enterprising people started up small stations. However, the trend has been towards creating regulations that raise the barrier of entry, require much more massive equipment and basically bar anyone but the wealthy from starting a radio station. Of course, this has the nasty side effect of limiting your options when it comes to listening to radio. Just try to get a license to run an FM or AM station to broadcast to the area of a small town. More than likely you will be unable to because the FCC only wants you to have a license if you are going to run a large transmitter. Never mind the fact that is not in the best interest of the public - the rules and regs of the FCC are shaped by special interest groups who have the money to lobby them.

    If the FCC started regulating the Internet in any way, it wouldn't be long before the heavies started lobbying for rules that would be prohibitive for small businesses or publications on the Net.

    Sorry - I used to work in radio and I have an intense hatred for the FCC and what they've done to radio.
  • Uh, you've got this exactly backwards:

    The Good: ISP's can't be regulated by the FCC. No regulation of content, etc.

    The Bad: ISP's ARE responsible for their content. A common carrier is like the phone system - I can't sue AT&T if you cuss me out over the phone.

    No argument over the ugly, however.

  • The only hope is that the *public* who wants to buy internet service *demands* the service they want.

    Unrestricted IP access, routing updates, unfiltered connections, and if any limits are placed, they should be strictly on bandwidth.

    No matter what restrictions are put in place, we can always tunnel around them, so why make us do it?
  • You're basically right. Actually, there are a bunch of technicalities to consider:
    • The Supremes have refused to "grant certeriorari" which in plain language means "we don't choose to get involved today", but says nothing about what they might do tomorrow. Here's an explanation of certiorari [].

    • The crucial bit about who's a common carrier wasn't decided by the courts -- it was decided by the FCC. The court's simply refused to get involved in that aspect of the Howard vs AOL case. There's nothing to stop the FCC from changing the definition of "common carrier" at any time.

    • The FCC gets its authority to define "common carrier" from an Act of Congress. Another such Act could easily redefine their authority -- even require them to treat ISPs as CCs.

    So, Hemos, I'm afraid you jumped the gun. What was decided to day was to decide nothing today.


  • ...but MCI still owns the most fiber. Ever heard of, oh, I don't know, UUNet? That's MCI's baby.

    Hmm, doesn't Qwest own more? Or did MCI buy them or something? Back in the day when Wired did their special on Qwest, they were laying down enough fiber and using slick enough technology to have four times the entire fiber capacity of everyone else put together.

  • It means that Reinquist is in AOL's pockets, as well as Microsofts.

    Soylent Green is people!
  • I believe that this DOES mean that there is now legal precedent within states (and possessions) that fall under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit, unless and until either

    1. the law is clarified to the contrary by the Congress, or
    2. the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case and rules in opposition to the 9th Circuit.
    The issue is still open to a completely contrary ruling by a different Circuit court, I believe. So, I would agree that nothing has been done for the majority of us, although the ruling stands in the 9th Circuit. But of course IANAL (although I played one in high school a decade ago...)
  • Moderated up as informative...informative. I guess that means at least one moderator hasn't yet completed his 9th grade civics course...

    BTW, it does mean something when the Supreme Court refuses to hear a case. It means the lower court's decision stands. It means the court case is over with, and the lobbying will start - oops, scratch that - the plaintiffs don't own a whole flock of lobbyists, so they can't appeal to Congress. It means that you'd better have a WHOLE lot of money if you want to sue an ISP because they've violated statutes or regulations that govern common carriers.
  • Seriously. AOL will own all TimeWarner customers, and Verizon will own a whole chunk of the landlines in the Northeast (I don't know about the rest of the US). There has to be something that will prevent corruption and price gouging.
  • Good lord, someone with an AC/DC quote in their .sig is playing smarter-than-thou. /. *has* gone to hell.

  • for the most part, the ISP's o NOT own their own lines, earthlink, compuserve and others provide a service on leased lines. there are easy alternatives to their service and the industry seems to self-regulate pretty well. Imagine what your phone bill would be like if you could chose from 20 diferent local telephone service providers. ISP's on't need regulation untill they reach monopoly status. Once the AOL/timewarner merger happens,.... we'll see......

Air is water with holes in it.