Court Reverses FCC Cable Ruling

Cable operators should not be the only companies to provide high-speed Internet access over cable television system, a federal appeals court said in reversing a Federal Communications Commission regulation.

In an opinion issued Monday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the FCC erred when it classified high-speed Internet over cable as just an “information service” – a move that effectively locked out competitors.

The judges, basing their ruling on a decision in an earlier case, said cable-based broadband also is a “telecommunications service,” which would make it subject to the same rules that the phone companies must adhere to – such as allowing access to competitive providers.

“Giving consumers a choice of Internet service providers would open the door to more competition, and let people choose services with better privacy and less spam,” said Chris Murray, Consumers Union’s legislative counsel.

Company pays for false Web claims: agreed to repay customers $815,000 to resolve federal charges that it failed to deliver on Internet promises of providing major credit cards for a fee, regulators said.

The Federal Trade Commission said the company, doing business as, sent e-mail “spam” offering approved credit cards in exchange for an advance payment of $49.95. Thousands of people who paid the fee did not get the credit cards, the FTC said.

A message posted on the website said the company had suspended its sales and promotions. By settling, the company does not acknowledge breaking any law. If the court finds that misstated its financial condition, the company could be made to pay $3.6 million, the FTC said.

Consumers who responded to the e-mail clicked on a link to the company’s website and had the fee deducted from their checking accounts before they received the promised credit card, the FTC said. Under the settlement, the company is prohibited from making false claims about credit cards and selling its customer lists.

‘Crossover’ video-game machine: Sony offered a preview of its next-generation PlayStation, a hybrid gaming machine with digital media hub features: a TV tuner, DVD and hard-drive recording and photo album and music player functions. The machine took center stage at the Sony booth at CEATEC Japan, an annual electronics show.

The network-ready console, called the PSX, testifies to the intensifying competition among consumer electronics companies to make the living room the locus of home digital entertainment. It will go on sale in Japan late this year, beginning at $720 for a 160-gigabyte hard disk version that can record 200 hours of digital video.

After decades of setting global trends with hits such as the Walkman, Sony has lost a bit of its shine lately, falling behind Matsushita, the company behind the Panasonic brand in DVD recorders. It also trails Sharp in flat-panel TVs in the global market.

Iraq awards mobile contracts: Iraq’s reconstruction got a boost Monday when licenses were awarded for wireless phone networks that are expected to be operating within weeks in a country bypassed by the cellular revolution.

The licenses were awarded to three Middle Eastern companies that have investors in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. Each winning bidder is putting up a refundable $30 million bond for the license, which is to last two years. Collectively, they will also pay $9 million to fund a wireless regulatory agency.

The mobile system will especially help in Baghdad, where 12 landline telephone exchanges were knocked out during the U.S.-led invasion last spring. Nationwide, one in four phone lines remains out of service. Before the war, Iraq had just three phone lines for every 100 people.

The wireless buildup will bring hundreds of millions of foreign dollars into Iraq, where continuing guerrilla violence against U.S.-led occupation forces could delay major redevelopment investment.

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