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In an apparent case of first impression, a district court has ordered a cable company to provide federal investigators with private details about one of its Internet subscribers without informing the subscriber. The ruling, handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, comes amidst much debate over the scope of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984. The decision will be published Monday. In Re Application of the United States of America for an Order Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. �2703(d), 01 Mag. 1389, concerns the government’s request for information about a subscriber to Cablevision Systems Corp.’s Optimum Online Internet service. The subscriber, the government claimed, may be associated with unspecified criminal activity currently under investigation. In July, the Southern District ordered Cablevision to provide the government with the subscriber’s name, home address, telephone number and other available identifying information, such as a Social Security or driver’s license number. The order, requested by the government under the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. �2703(d), also asked Cablevision to reveal whatever it knew about the subscriber’s Internet habits, including when the subscriber connected and disconnected from the Internet, and the volume of data transferred through the subscriber’s account. Cablevision was ordered to keep the government’s request secret from the subscriber. In its motion to quash or modify the court’s order, Cablevision did not contest that it was required by law to turn over whatever information it had about the subscriber. Rather, the company contended that under the Cable Act, it was obligated to notify the subscriber about the release of private information. The Cable Act’s disclosure provision, Cablevision said, put an undue burden on the company, forcing it to wrestle with conflicting requirements of the Cable Act and the Electronic Communication Privacy Act. OTHER SERVICES In ruling against Cablevision, Magistrate Judge Gorenstein found that 1992 amendments to the Cable Act establish that a cable company’s “other service[s],” which he said included Internet services, are not governed by 47 U.S.C. �551(h), the section of the Cable Act that requires cable companies to disclose requests for personal information. The Cable Act defines “other service” as “any wire or radio communications service provided using any of the facilities of a cable operator that are used in the provision of cable service.” Since subsection (h) of the Cable Act does not apply to Internet services, Gorenstein ruled, there is no conflict of statutes in this case. The Electronic Communication Privacy Act is the “only statute that applies to information sought in this matter,” he wrote. Addressing the ongoing debate over the application of the Cable Act to Internet services, Gorenstein wrote that resolving this conflict did not require the court to “decide whether the Cable Act as a whole applies to cable companies providing Internet service through cable connections.” Greg E. Haber of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo represented Cablevision Systems. Assistant U.S. Attorney Miriam E. Rocah represented the government.

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