Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in SBC v. FCC

(January 21, 1999)  The U.S. Supreme Court denied SBC Communication's petition for writ of certiorari in its suit against the Federal Communications Commission over application of Section 271 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

See, Summary of SBC v. FCC: U.S.D.C., N.D. Texas, Case Number 7:97-CV-163-X; U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Number 98-10140; and U.S. Supreme Court Docket No. 98-652. 

The Court denied certiorari, which is essentially a refusal to hear the case.  This leaves standing the decision of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the FCC.  As is typical, the Court issued no opinion.  It merely released the following statement in its list of denials of certiorari petitions on January 19:

98-652 SBC COMMUNICATIONS, ET AL. V, FCC, ET AL.  The motion of Texas Justice Foundation for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted.  The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.  Justice O'Connor took no part in the consideration or decision of this motion and this petition.

Related Pages

271-275 of 1996 Telecom Act.
Judge Kendall's Opinion, (PDF file in District Court's website), 12/31/97.
Appeal Brief of AT&T and MCI, (105 KB HTML file), 3/23/98.
Court of Appeals Opinion, (121 KB HTML file), 9/4/98.

SBC Communications initially brought suit against the Federal Communications Commission in 1997, after it had rejected is requests to provide intra lata long distance services.   The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (at 271-275) bars named regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs) from providing in region long distance service until the FCC determines that they have opened their local markets to competition.  Long distance companies, including AT&T, MCI, and GTE, soon joined the suit.

SBC, and other RBOCs which joined the suit, argued that it was unconstitutional for Congress in enacting the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to ban the RBOCs from engaging in long distance and other services.  The argued specifically that 271-275 of the 1996 are unconstitutional for being a bill of attainder.

The trial court judge agreed with SBC.  However, the 5th Circuit reversed.   The decision of the Supreme Court not to hear the case lets stand the decision of the 5th Circuit.  The decision is another major victory for Federal Communications Commission regulators who have consistently refused the RBOCs permission to provide in region long distance telephone service, and for long distance companies, who do not want the competition.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard was pleased.  He issued the following statement: "This decision confirms the logic of the Telcom Act: that competition breeds competition. The companies should stop litigating and give Americans what they want, choice."

Bell Atlantic is one of the RBOCs adversely affected by the decision.  James Young, Bell Atlantic's EVP and General Counsel, had this to say:

Bell Atlantic’s push to bring long distance services to customers remains strong. We have pursued every available strategy to give customers an immediate, meaningful alternative to the confusing sales pitches, gimmicks and tricks of AT&T and its cohorts.

While this case worked its way through the courts, we dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to opening our local markets to competitors, and we have met the Telecom Act’s requirements. While we do question the Constitutionality of portions of the Act, we have pressed ahead to prove we have complied with the 14-point checklist and we are on track to file our New York long distance application in the first quarter. We are fierce local competitors and are ready to take on AT&T, MCI WorldCom and Sprint on their own jealously guarded turf. It is time to introduce real choice into the long distance market now.