US cable television operators that also provide broadband internet services have won a major legal victory.

The Supreme Court has ruled they do not have to open up their networks for use by competing internet service providers.

The cable firms, backed by media watchdog the Federal Communications Commission, argued successfully that they should be regulated as information providers rather than as telephone companies.

Under FCC rules, telecoms firms are "common carriers" which can be ordered to give competitors access to their networks.

The ruling is likely to hit smaller ISPs. Jim Pickrell, president of California-headquartered Brand X, which brought the original case against the FCC policy in 2002, complained: "That puts us and every other internet service in an absolutely terrible situation. If we cannot get access then essentially we're out of business."

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff