Court Rules Against FCC in Net Neutrality Efforts

BlogHer Original Post

A federal appeals court dealt a major blow to efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to implement principles of net neutrality. In 2008, the FCC sanctioned cable company Comcast over the practice of slowing down its subscribers' Internet access to the BitTorrent video sharing site. Comcast appealed, and the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC does not have authority to regulate Internet service providers in this manner.

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski Testifies On National Broadband Plan

Supporters of net neutrality were buoyed by the Obama administration's choice of net neutrality proponent, Julius Genachowski, as FCC Chairman. Building on a regulatory framework established during the previous Bush administration, Genachowski has sought to establish a firm basis for FCC regulatory authority in order to preserve equal Internet access and prevent large companies from limiting or preventing access by small or non-profit organizations, tiering access by cost, or slowing innovation.

The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, "often referred to as the 'open Internet NPRM'" in an effort to establish its regulatory authority; however, the court's ruling means that the FCC will either have to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or seek legislation from Congress to grant it specific authority.

Additionally, given that Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal has yet to be approved, the court's decision could affect the outcome of the transaction.

What is clear is that, despite this big win for cable and telecom companies, the fight for net neutrality is far from over. Proponents will now need to retrench and look for new paths to pursue their goals.

What do you think about this decision? Would you like to see legislation regulating Internet access, or do you think that companies should be free to decide how to best serve their customers?

Additional Reading:

John Paczkowski at Digital Daily from D: All Things Digital: Court Rules Against FCC in Comcastic Net Neutrality Decision

John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable: Industry Groups Speak Out On FCC/Comcast Ruling

Grant Gross at PC World: Court Rules Against FCC's Comcast Net Neutrality Decision

Jolie O'Dell at Mashable: U.S. Court Rules Against FCC and Net Neutrality

Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch: Federal Court Tells FCC It Does Not Have Authority To Enforce Net Neutrality

BlogHer Contributing Editors Virginia DeBolt and Laura Scott have written several articles about net neutrality over the past four years to give you history and background.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles also blogs business at Fizz and politics at PopConsumer.

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