Jenner & Block

Firm Secures Important Appellate Victory for Charter Communications, Inc.

The firm secured an important appellate victory for client Charter Communications, Inc. before the First Circuit Court of Appeals on December 18, 2020, freeing Charter from burdensome regulation of rates in Massachusetts and Hawaii.

Under the federal Cable Act, cable operators generally are subject to rate regulation by local franchising authorities unless there is a finding of “effective competition” in the relevant jurisdiction. Although the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 adopted a rebuttable presumption that cable operators are subject to “effective competition” nationwide, Charter still remained subject to rate regulation in Massachusetts and Hawaii.  Charter thus filed a petition with the Commission seeking a declaratory ruling that it should no longer be subject to such regulation because it was subject to effective competition from AT&T TV Now under the Commission’s so-called “LEC Test.”  The Commission granted the petition, but the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (MDTC) appealed that ruling to the First Circuit.  MDTC argued that a video programming service like AT&T TV Now that was offered over broadband networks could not satisfy the LEC Test.  On behalf of Charter, the firm intervened in the appeal and filed a brief in opposition.  Along with counsel for the Commission, Partner Jessica Ring Amunson argued the case before a panel of the First Circuit on October 8, 2020. 

In a decision issued on December 18, 2020, the First Circuit unanimously rejected MDTC’s argument and affirmed the FCC’s ruling.  Largely tracking the arguments the firm presented in its brief, the First Circuit ruled that Charter is subject to effective competition from AT&T TV Now under the LEC Test and therefore no longer subject to rate regulation.

The First Circuit appeal team consisted of Ms. Amunson and Partner Howard J. Symons and Associate Jonathan A. Langlinais.  In addition to these three Jenner & Block lawyers, Partner Emily Chapuis and former associates Christine Sanquist and Andrew Noll played an integral role in the proceedings before the Commission.  Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson and Associate Manager of Docketing Services Tyler Edwards provided critical paralegal and docketing support.