WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court has granted the Justice Department’s request to intervene in a lawsuit accusing AT&T of monopolizing the DSL market.
The government urged the high court to reject the claims of independent service providers, such as linkLine Communications, who allege that AT&T effectively shut them out of the market by charging wholesale prices that prevented them from competing with the prices AT&T charged consumers for retail DSL services.
Competitors said they were forced to lease wholesale “DSL transport” from AT&T, because the telecommunications giant owns most of the infrastructure required for DSL service, including local telephone lines.
The 9th Circuit ruled in September 2007 for the independent ISPs, after concluding that their claims were valid under federal antitrust law.
The Justice Department backed AT&T’s argument that the price-squeeze claim amounts to a refusal-to-deal claim – in other words, service providers are upset that AT&T refused to deal on their terms. The department said AT&T had no antitrust duty to provide wholesale services in the first place.
The Federal Trade Commission, however, refused to back the Justice Department’s stance, signaling internecine division. “There is no apparent justification … for turning back 60 years of case law that embraces price-squeeze claims under the Section 2 of the Sherman Act,” the FTC said in a statement.
The justices agreed to review the case without comment.