AT&T won a key legal victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the Ninth Circuit Court’s determination that the carrier’s Pacific Bell (PacBell) subsidiary used price squeeze tactics to discourage Internet service providers from seeking access to the PacBell network to offer competitive DSL services. The decision, handed down on Wednesday, extends a string of Supreme Court victories in recent years involving major telecom players, such as AT&T, Verizon Communications, and Qwest Communications, that have been sued on antitrust grounds. The case at hand goes back to 2003 when ISPs Linkline Communications, Notelog Inc. and In-Reach Internet, Inc. first challenged PacBell’s policy of charging rates for wholesale DSL access that exceeded PacBell’s retail rates. Filing suit on antitrust grounds, the plaintiffs argued that PacBell’s rate structure constituted an illegal price squeeze that was aimed at preventing PacBell rivals from competing in the DSL market. Although the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last year, the high court justices decreed unanimously that price squeeze claims may not be brought under antitrust law when the defendant has no antitrust obligation to deal with the plaintiffs at wholesale. Observing that the ISPs “tried to join a wholesale claim that cannot succeed, with a retail claim that cannot succeed, and alchemize them into a new form of antitrust liability never before recognized by this court,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “we decline the invitation to recognize such claims.” Returning the case to the lower courts, the justices left open the possibility that the plaintiffs could pursue their claim under the standard of predatory pricing, although Roberts predicted that such a strategy “may not survive a motion to dismiss.” Applauding the decision, an AT&T spokeswoman said: “we highly value our ISP customers and believe we operated, and continue to operate, properly and fairly in setting wholesale and retail rates.”