AT&T v. IOWA UTILITIES BOARD

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
97-826
Petitioner 
AT&T
Respondent 
Iowa Utilities Board
Consolidation 
No. 97-829
No. 97-831
No. 97-830
No. 97-1075
No. 97-1087
No. 97-1099
No. 97-1141
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the private petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the private cross-respondents/petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the cross-petitioners/respondents)
(Argued the cause for the State Commission respondents)
(Argued the cause for the private respondents)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the federal cross-respondents/petitioners)
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Facts of the Case 

The 1996 Telecommunications Act (Act) fundamentally altered local telephone markets by ending the monopolies traditionally given to local exchange carriers (LECs) by states and subjecting LECs to a host of duties meant to facilitate market entry. Among these was the imposition of an obligation on incumbent LECs to share their networks with competitors. Following the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) issuance of regulations implementing the Act's guidelines, AT&T; challenged their constitutionality on behalf of itself and other existing phone service providers.

Question 

Does the Federal Communication Commission have authority to implement the competition-inducing guidelines set out in the 1996 Telecommunications Act?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for AT&T, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Communication Act of 1934

Yes. In a complicated split opinion, the Court held that the FCC has rulemaking authority to uphold those provision of the Act in question. Despite the local nature of some of the LECs involved, the Court emphasized their interconnectivity with regional and national carriers. As such, the FCC could also reach local LEC markets and regulate their competitive business practices. Such regulatory authority would include the ability to tell LECs what portions of their services they had to share with new competitors, allow new competitors to use local networks without having to own them, and forbid incumbent LECs from separating their network elements before leasing them to competitors.

Cite this Page
AT&T v. IOWA UTILITIES BOARD. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_97_826>.
AT&T v. IOWA UTILITIES BOARD, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_97_826 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"AT&T v. IOWA UTILITIES BOARD," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_97_826.