AT&T has spent a year railing about how awful it would be if the Federal Communications Commission applied common carrier rules to Internet service. It doesn’t make sense “to take a regulatory framework developed for Ma Bell in the 1930s and make her great grandchildren, with technologies and options undreamed of eighty years ago, live under it,” the company said last month just after the FCC voted to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.
Yet in an area where the Title II rules already apply (telephone service), AT&T now stands to get millions in refunds for network connection charges precisely because of the same rules that ban unjust and unreasonable charges for telecommunications services. The case hinges on the same “unjust and unreasonable” standard that’s now being applied to broadband, and it shows that Title II can be a huge boon to companies like AT&T.
In a decision this week, the FCC pointed to its Title II authority when it ruled in AT&T’s favor. The company had complained that Great Lakes Comnet (GLC) and Westphalia Telephone Company (WTC) of Michigan “billed AT&T for interstate access services under an unlawful tariff.”
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