National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., Inc. v. Gulf Power Co., 534 U.S. 327 (2002)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 00-832. Argued October 2, 2001—Decided January 16, 2002*

The Pole Attachments Act requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set reasonable rates, terms, and conditions for certain attachments to telephone and electric poles. 47 U. S. C. 224(b). A "pole attachment" includes "any attachment by a cable television system or provider of telecommunications service to a [utility's] pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way." 224(a)(4). Certain pole-owning utilities challenged an FCC order that interpreted the Act to cover pole attachments for commingled high-speed Internet and traditional cable television services and attachments by wireless telecommunications providers. After the challenges were consolidated, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the FCC on both points, holding that commingled services are not covered by either of the Act's two specific rate formulas—for attachments used "solely to provide cable service," 224(d)(3), and for attachments that telecommunications carriers use for "telecommunications services," 224(e)(1)—and so not covered by the Act. The Eleventh Circuit also held that the Act does not give the FCC authority to regulate wireless communications.


1. The Act covers attachments that provide high-speed Internet access at the same time as cable television. Pp. 333-341.

(a) This issue is resolved by the Act's plain text. No one disputes that a cable attached by a cable television company to provide only cable television service is an attachment "by a cable television system." The addition of high-speed Internet service on the cable does not change the character of the entity the attachment is "by." And that is what matters under the statute. This is the best reading of an unambiguous statute. Even if the statute were ambiguous, the FCC's reading must be accepted provided that it is reasonable. P. 333.

(b) Respondents cannot prove that the FCC's interpretation is unreasonable. This Court need not consider in the first instance the argument that a facility providing commingled cable television and In*Together with No. 00-843, Federal Communications Commission et al. v. Gulf Power Co. et al., also on certiorari to the same court.


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