Center's suit to get broadband data draws industry interest, comment

AT&T, Verizon Intervene in Center's Suit Against FCC

By

 Updated:

The Center for Public Integrity is leading an effort to find out more about which companies are providing high-speed Internet access throughout the United States so that citizens have a better understanding of their service options.

A Center lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act is attracting industry-wide interest.

The Center wants to make data about these companies publicly available online through Well Connected's Media Tracker, a free, Internet-based database of the radio, television, newspaper and cable companies that is searchable by ZIP code. Media Tracker was first released in 2003, and updated and expanded in October and November 2006.

Publicly identifying the companies that provide broadband service would help give citizens a more complete understanding of who they could turn to for high-speed access — which is becoming increasingly important in economic development and the spread of information. The availability of competitive broadband service is an issue involved in a range of telecommunications policy debates, including Net neutrality, universal service and video competition.

Well Connected also tracks the political influence of the major players in the telecommunications, media and technology industries, supplying information on the companies culled from the Center's lobbying, campaign contribution and privately sponsored travel data.

AT&T, Verizon Communications and three leading telecommunications trade groups filed court papers seeking to intervene or comment on the Center's lawsuit last week. The top cable association is also seeking to weigh in. (Links to each of the documents in the official court docket are provided in the box to the right. It will be updated as further documents are filed.)

In court papers filed Jan. 8, AT&T and Verizon, together with the United States Telecom Association (to which both companies belong), objected to the release of the broadband data. Wireless Communications Association International, a trade group representing a range of wireless broadband service providers, said that it had also objected.

Separately, CTIA — the wireless association formerly known as the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association — supported the FCC in a "friend of the court" brief filed Jan. 8. A fourth association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, seeks to file a similar brief.

The Department of Justice and the FCC filed their response to the Center's complaint on Jan. 8, the court-imposed deadline.

The Center's reply to the government and to the intervening companies is due on April 3.

The database in question is referred to as the "Form 477" database, nicknamed after the number of an FCC document. The agency has required communications companies to provide data about the areas they serve, as well as other information, twice annually since 2000.

Although the FCC does not make the database public, it does produce a semi-annual report about broadband availability and competition that is based on the data.

The Center believes that release of the base data is important because the information will aid in the general public's understanding of the importance of broadband.

Dating back to at least to April 2004, President George W. Bush declared that it was a national priority to spur the development of high-speed Internet service. "I'm talking about broadband technology to every corner of our country by the year 2007 with competition shortly thereafter," Bush said then in remarks at the American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention.

Knowing the identities of the companies would also allow the public to better gauge the reliability of the FCC's own database. In a report released in May 2006, the Government Accountability Office discussed "information [received from the FCC] on the companies providing broadband service in ZIP codes throughout the United States." The GAO's analysis of Form 477 data allowed it to conclude that the median number of broadband providers within a ZIP code was two, rather than eight, as the FCC's analysis of the data found.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, agencies have 20 working days to respond to requests. The Center's FOIA request was hand-delivered to the agency on Aug. 24, 2006. When the agency failed to respond within the required period, the Center filed suit on Sept. 25.

The agency responded to the FOIA request in a letter faxed to the Center on Sept. 26, 2006. The Center filed an administrative appeal to the FCC's rejection letter on Oct. 19. The FCC has not replied to the administrative appeal.

The case, Center for Public Integrity v. Federal Communications Commission, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The case had been assigned to Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on Sept. 25, 2006. But on Jan. 17, 2007, the case was reassigned to Judge Ellen S. Huvelle.

Date FiledDescriptive Title
8/24/2006FOIA requested by CPI
9/25/2006Complaint by CPI
9/25/2006CPI Corporate Disclosure
9/26/2006Decision By Wireless Competition Bureau
10/2/2006Proof of Service by CPI
10/2/2006Exhibit 1 - Declaration of Service on U.S. Attorney
10/2/2006Exhibit 2 - Service by Mail on Defendant FCC
10/2/2006Exhibit 3 - Service by Mail on Attorney General
10/5/2006Notice of Appearance for FCC
10/19/2006Administrative Appeal by CPI
10/24/2006Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to Respond by FCC
10/24/2006Proposed Order
10/26/2006Order by Judge Collyer
11/30/2006Motion for Extension of Time to Respond by FCC
11/30/2006Proposed Order
12/1/2006Order by Judge Collyer
1/8/2007Motion for Summary Judgment by FCC
1/8/2007Statement of Material Facts
1/8/2007Declaration by Alan I. Feldman [added by corrected filing 1/9]
1/8/2007Exhibit - CPI's FOIA Request
1/8/2007Exhibit Decision by FCC
1/8/2007Exhibit - CPI's Administrative Appeal
1/8/2007Public Notice
1/8/2007Form 477 and Instructions
1/8/2007Decision on FOIA Request by ERS Group
1/8/2007Proposed Order
1/8/2007Unopposed Motion for Leave to File a Brief Amicus Curiae by CTIA-The Wireless Association
1/8/2007Memorandum Supporting Motion
1/8/2007Exhibit - Amicus Brief
1/8/2007477 and Instructions
1/8/2007Exhibit 2 - CPI's FOIA Request
1/8/2007Exhibit Public Notice
1/8/2007Proposed Order
1/8/2007Motion to Intervene
1/8/2007Proposed Order [as corrected 1/12]
1/8/2007Proposed Answer to the Complaint
1/8/2007Proposed Motion for Summary Judgment
1/8/2007Proposed Statement of Material Facts
1/8/2007Declaration by ATT
1/8/2007Declaration by Verizon
1/8/2007Exhibit 3 - Declaration by Kevin J. Albaugh
1/8/2007Exhibit 4 - Declaration by Colin S. Stretch
1/8/2007Proposed Order (for Summary Judgment)
1/8/2007ATT Corporate Disclosure
1/8/2007USTA Corporate Disclosure
1/8/2007VerizonDisclosure
1/8/2007Notice Of Appearance for ATT Inc VerizonUS Telecom Association
1/17/2007Court Order Reassigning Case
1/8/2007Motion to Intervene by Wireless Communications Association International
1/23/2007Declaration of Marybeth M. Banks
1/23/2007Declaration of Ralph Diaz
1/23/2007Corporate Disclosure by WCAI
1/23/2007Proposed Answer by WCAI
1/23/2007Declaration of Terri B. Natoli
1/23/2007Proposed Order by WCAI
1/23/2007Notice of Appearance for WCAI
10/26/2006
Order by Judge Huvelle
ORDER granting the Unopposed Motion of CTIA - The Wireless Association for Leave to File a Brief Amicus Curiae, granting the Unopposed Motion of AT&T Inc., Verizon, and the United States Telecom Association to Intervene, and granting the Motion of the Wireless Communications Association International to Intervene as a Defendant. The Clerk of the Court is directed to file and docket the Amicus Brief submitted by CTIA with its motion for leave to file, the Answer and Motion for Summary Judgment of Intervenor-Defendants AT&T Inc., Verizon, and the United States Telecom Association submitted with their motion to intervene, and the Answer of Defendant-Intervenor Wireless Communications Association International submitted with its motion to intervene. Counsel for the parties are directed to confer and jointly submit a proposed briefing schedule to the Court on or before February 5, 2007. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on 1/25/2007.
10/28/2006Motion for Leave to File a Brief Amicus Curiae by National Cable & Telecommunications Association
1/26/2007Exhibit - Amicus Brief by NCTA
1/26/2007Corporate Disclosure by NCTA
1/26/2007Proposed Order by NCTA
1/26/2007
Order by Judge Huvelle
ORDER granting the Unopposed Motion of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) for Leave to File a Brief Amicus Curiae. The Clerk of the Court is directed to docket and file the proposed amicus brief submitted by the NCTA with its motion. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on 1/26/2007.
2/5/2007Consent Motion for Order to Set Briefing Schedule by Center for Public Integrity
2/5/2007Proposed Order
2/6/2007
Order by Judge Huvelle
ORDER granting plaintiff's Consent Motion for Scheduling Order. Defendant-intervenor Wireless Communications Association International shall file a motion for summary judgment on or before February 20, 2007. Plaintiff shall file an opposition to the motions for summary jugment and a cross-motion for summary judgment on or before March 27, 2007. Defendant shall file a reply and opposition to cross-motion on or before April 17, 2007. Defendant-intervenors and amici may file a reply and/or opposition to cross-motion on or before April 24, 2007. Plaintiff shall file a reply on or before May 15, 2007. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on 2/5/2007.
2/20/2007Motion for Summary Judgment by WCAI
2/20/2007Memorandum of Points and Authorities by WCAI
2/20/2007Proposed Order
2/20/2007Proposed Order
3/27/2007Consent Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by CPI
3/27/2007Proposed Order by CPI
3/27/2007
Order by Judge Huvelle
ORDER granting plaintiff's Consent Motion for Enlargement of Time in Which to File Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff shall file its opposition to the motions for summary judgment and a cross-motion for summary judgment on or before April 3, 2007. Defendant shall file a reply and opposition to cross-motion on or before April 24, 2007. Defendant-intervenors and amici may file a reply and/or opposition to cross motion on or before May 1, 2007. Plaintiff shall file a reply on or before May 22, 2007. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on 3/27/2007.
4/3/2007Cross Motion for Summary Judgment by CPI
4/3/2007Statement of Facts by CPI
4/3/2007Declaration of Brendan McGarry
4/3/2007Exhibit 2 by CPI
4/3/2007Proposed Order by CPI
4/24/2007Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by FCC
4/24/2007Proposed Order by FCC
4/24/2007Proposed Order by FCC
4/24/2007
Order by Judge Huvelle
ORDER granting Defendant Federal Communications Commission's Unopposed Motion for Enlargement of Time. Defendant shall file its reply in support of motion for summary judgment and opposition to plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment on or before May 15, 2007. Defendant intervenors and amici shall file an opposition to plaintiff's cross-motion on or before May 22, 2007. Plaintiff shall file a reply on or before June 12, 2007. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on 4/24/2007.
5/15/2007Memorandum in opposition to Cross Motion for Summary Judgment by FCC
5/15/2007Supplemental Declaration of Alan I. Feldman
5/15/2007Proposed Order by FCC
5/22/2007Memorandum in opposition to Cross Motion for Summary Judgment by AT&T, USTA and Verizon
5/22/2007Response to Statement of Facts by AT&T, USTA and Verizon
5/22/2007Proposed Order by AT&T, USTA and Verizon
5/22/2007Memorandum in opposition to Cross Motion for Summary Judgment by WCAI
5/22/2007Proposed Order by WCAI
6/12/20077Reply to opposition to motion re Cross Motion for Summary Judgment by CPI
6/12/2007Declaration of Clair Kaye
8/6/2007Order by Judge Huvelle
8/14/2007Response to Order of the Court by FCC
8/14/2007Second Supplemental Declaration of Alan I. Feldman
8/14/2007Response to Order of the Court by AT&T, USTA and Verizon
8/27/2007Memorandum Opinion by Judge Huvelle
8/27/2007Order by Judge Huvelle

 

Care about freedom of the press? Support independent investigative journalism.

Donate now
Donate now