TALK AMERICA INC. v. MICHIGAN BELL TELEPHONE CO.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
10-313
Petitioner 
Talk America, Incorporated
Respondent 
Michigan Bell Telephone Company, dba AT&T Michigan
Consolidation 
10-329, Orjiakor Isiogu, et al., Petitioners v. Michigan Bell Telephone Company, dba AT&T Michigan
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae supporting the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress sought to open up the local telephone markets to competition by requiring incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to share their equipment and services with competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs). Under early interpretations of the law, incumbent-constructed entrance facilities had to provide at-cost access to the competitors. In AT&T Inc. unit Michigan Bell Telephone Co.'s interpretation, the FCC's Triennial Review Remand Order in 2005 created a means to charge for the use of the facilities, and the company announced plans to do so.

Competitor carriers complained to the Michigan Public Service Commission, and it ruled that the entrance facilities should still be provided at cost. Michigan Bell sued in federal court and won. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

Question 

Does federal law require local telephone companies, already established, to allow new competitors in their markets to link to the existing networks through connecting wires at low, government-regulated rates?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Talk America Inc., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 47 U. S. C. §251(c)(3)

Yes. The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the lower court in a decision by Justice Clarence Thomas. "The FCC has advanced a reasonable interpretation of its regulations — i.e., that to satisfy its duty under §251(c)(2), an incumbent LEC must make its existing entrance facilities available to competitors at cost-based rates if the facilities are to be used for interconnection — and this Court defers to the FCC’s views," Thomas wrote. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a concurring opinion, noting: "I would reach the same result even without benefit of the rule that we will defer to an agency's interpretation of its own regulations." Meanwhile, Justice Elena Kagan took no part in consideration of the case.

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TALK AMERICA INC. v. MICHIGAN BELL TELEPHONE CO.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 13 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_10_313>.
TALK AMERICA INC. v. MICHIGAN BELL TELEPHONE CO., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_10_313 (last visited December 13, 2014).
"TALK AMERICA INC. v. MICHIGAN BELL TELEPHONE CO.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 13, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_10_313.