U.S. will appeal Bell Atlantic ruling

The U.S. Dept. of Justice plans to appeal a federal court’s decision tossing out the ban against telephone companies owning cable TV systems in their service region, a government source said Thursday.

On Aug. 24, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., declared the cable-telco cross-ownership ban to be unconstitutional.

The decision was a huge win for Bell Atlantic Corp., the Philadelphia-based Baby Bell that challenged the 1984 Cable Act provision as a violation of its free speech rights.

The Justice Dept. appeal should come as no surprise, since Justice is charged with enforcing laws passed by Congress. The appeal is expected to be filed in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., within the next two months.

Meanwhile, Justice attorneys on Wednesday filed papers with Ellis urging the judge to limit the scope of his Bell Atlantic ruling only to the mid-Atlantic region. At the same time, the other six Baby Bell companies, along with GTE and Rochester Telephone, asked the court to rule that the cable-telco cross-ownership ban is now unconstitutional throughout the U.S.

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