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Additional Cable Access Closer With Court Decision

In a development that could eventually force cable companies to open their broadband services to rivals, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco let stand an earlier decision that cable broadband in effect is "a telecommunications service" and not "an information service."

The development means that rivals of cable service providers can offer additional services including VoIP. The development -- a non-action really -- was hailed by consumer groups and by independent Internet cable broadband providers, but criticized by the FCC.

"(The) decision by the Ninth Circuit confirms what EarthLink has been saying for over five years now, that cable modem service contains a telecommunications service," Dave Baker, EarthLink's vice president of law and public policy, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Consumers Union lauded the development saying in a statement that it created an opportunity for consumers "to pick and choose from a broad array of cable Internet services."

FCC Chairman Michael Powell expressed disappointment in the decision, however. He opposes the sharing of cable broadband lines because he says he wants cable companies to be able to better compete with the major telephone firms. He did not say whether the FCC would appeal the development to the Supreme Court.