National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., Inc. v. Gulf Power Co., 534 U.S. 327, 9 (2002)

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Cite as: 534 U. S. 327 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

to have the opportunity to address in the first instance. This does not leave the cases in doubt, however. Even if a "cable television system" is best thought of as a certain "facility" rather than a certain type of entity, respondents still must confront the problem that the statute regulates attachments "by" (rather than "of") these facilities. The word "by" still limits pole attachments by who is doing the attaching, not by what is attached. So even if a cable television system is only a cable television system "to the extent" it provides cable television, an "attachment . . . by a cable television system" is still (entirely) an attachment "by" a cable television system whether or not it does other things as well.

The Court of Appeals based its ruling on a different theory. The statute sets two different formulas for just and reasonable rates—one for pole attachments "used by a cable television system solely to provide cable service," 224(d)(3), and one for those "used by telecommunications carriers to provide telecommunications services," 224(e)(1). In a footnote, the Court of Appeals concluded without analysis that "subsections (d) and (e) narrow (b)(1)'s general mandate to set just and reasonable rates." 208 F. 3d, at 1276, n. 29. In its view, Congress would not have provided two specific rate formulas, and yet left a residual category for which the FCC would derive its own view of just and reasonable rates. "The straightforward language of subsections (d) and (e) directs the FCC to establish two specific just and reasonable rates . . . ; no other rates are authorized." Ibid.

This conclusion has no foundation in the plain language of 224(a)(4) and (b). Congress did indeed prescribe two formulas for "just and reasonable" rates in two specific categories; but nothing about the text of 224(d) and (e) (1994 ed. and Supp. V), and nothing about the structure of the Act, suggest that these are the exclusive rates allowed. It is true that specific statutory language should control more general language when there is a conflict between the two.


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