Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Court rules against FCC in 'net neutrality' case

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday the the Federal Communications Commission does not have the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all internet traffic on their networks.  From AP:
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company. It had challenged the FCC's authority to impose so-called "net neutrality" obligations on broadband providers.

The ruling also marks a serious setback for the FCC, which is trying to officially set net neutrality regulations. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski argues that such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over Internet access to favor some online content and services over others.

The decision also has serious implications for the massive national broadband plan released by the FCC last month. The FCC needs clear authority to regulate broadband in order to push ahead with some its key recommendations, including a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the federal fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities.

The court case centered on Comcast's challenge of a 2008 FCC order banning the company from blocking its broadband subscribers from using an online file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent. The commission, at the time headed by Republican Kevin Martin, based its order on a set of net-neutrality principles it adopted in 2005 to prevent broadband providers from becoming online gatekeepers. Those principles have guided the FCC's enforcement of communications laws on a case-by-case basis, and now Genachowski is trying to formalize those rules.
A unanimous three judge panel ruled that Congress has not given the FCC the power to regulate network management practices of internet service providers.  This is good news in the era of Obama administrative agency overreach.  But don't get too excited.  The FCC has already telegraphed its intention to reclassify broadband internet service to fall under Type II, or common carriage telecommunications rules so it could be regulated just like rotary phone service was back in the old days. 

I posted on this back in February in  "FCC: Taking title to the internet" if you want to know more.

No comments:

Post a Comment