Supreme Court of the United States - 512 U.S. 218
This case involves the FCC's authority to make tariff filing optional for nondominant long-distance carriers under Section 203(a) and (b) of Title 47 of the United States Code. The Court of Appeals invalidated the FCC's mandatory detariffing policy in 1985, which led to MCI continuing its practice of not filing tariffs for certain services. AT&T alleged that this violated §§ 203(a) and (c), but the Commission dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals concluded that the permissive detariffing policy of the Fourth Report and Order exceeded the limited authority granted to the Commission in section 203(b) to "modify" requirements of the Act. The court clarifies that the Commission's interpretation of the statute should not be given Chevron deference, and the case of National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Boston & Maine Corp. does not support the petitioners' argument that the courts must defer to the agency's choice among available dictionary definitions.
The dissenting opinion argues that the Communications Act of 1934 grants the FCC broad discretion to regulate the dynamic communications industry and meet new challenges. The Court's decision to abandon this approach in favor of rigid literalism deprives the FCC of the flexibility it needs to implement the core policies of the Act in rapidly changing conditions. The FCC's detariffing policy for nondominant carriers aligns with the statute's goal of restricting monopoly power and is a reasonable relaxation of a regulatory requirement that has become unnecessary and counterproductive in certain cases. However, the Court upheld the lower court's determination that the FCC cannot exempt nondominant carriers from filing tariffs under the term "modify," but the Court's interpretation of "modify" is narrow and ignores another established definition that supports the FCC's position.
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