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In a surprise move Friday, the Supreme Court announced it will review a key telecom case that could decide whether broadband cable Internet service will be regulated with a light or heavy hand. The issue in Federal Communications Commission v. Brand X Internet Services is whether cable modem service should be treated as a largely unregulated information service or as a telephone-like telecommunications service that can be forced to make its lines available to competitors. Consumer groups and telephone-based Internet providers prefer the telephone model because they say it would prevent cable from monopolizing Internet access. The FCC voted for the less-regulation option sought by cable operators, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in October 2003. “High-speed Internet connections are not telephones, and I’m glad the Supreme Court has agreed to review the 9th Circuit’s ruling that they are,” said FCC Chairman Michael Powell Friday. The high court held its regular private conference Friday to discuss cases, but no announcement was expected until Monday. The Court may have wanted to give telecom lawyers an extra weekend to prepare for arguments, which will likely be set for the third week in March.

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