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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Monday, February 02, 2004


The Supreme Court to consider -- can 'any entity' include a fish?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case Nixon vs. Missouri Municipal League. Attorneys argued over what Congress meant when it wrote the 1996 Telecommunications Deregulation Act, specifying that state and federal regulators could not stop "any entity" from offering telecommunications services.

Under what circumstances did the Congress have the constitutional right to regulate the relationship between states and their municipal subdivisions?

As Steve Minor notes in his SW Virginia law blog, the conversation sometimes got a little bizarre:
"Here is the transcript from the municipal telecommunications case, the argument of which I went to observe earlier this month, having filed three briefs for amici curiae in the case. As I noted earlier, one memorable exchange was this:"

"MR. STRAUSS: . . . Our position in this case is straightforward and I can state it very simply. Gregory against Ashcroft applies in circumstances where the statutory language is ambiguous. The Court has said that three times, including Congress had said, for example, any corporation, which might leave some doubt whether Congress meant only private corporations and not municipal corporations.
QUESTION: But it doesn't mean any fish, for example. I mean, there are a lot of things it doesn't mean.
MR. STRAUSS: I -- I wouldn't -- I wouldn't -- I guess it doesn't mean any fish, Justice Breyer, but of the -- I think it has a very broad meaning."

The Supreme Court's decision will have a major affect on municipal broadband deployments in the United States.


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