Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nattering Nabobs of Net Neutrality

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a decision on April 6, 2010 that winds back the Net Neutrality agenda of the FCC. The court said in a 36 page decision that the Federal Communications Commission does not have authority to regulate an Internet service provider's network management practices.

The facts of the case are simple. Comcast interfered with its customers' use of "peer-to-peer" network applications. These apps allow users to share large files directly with one another, and use a ton of bandwidth. Comcast says it was simply managing its network capacity. The FCC issued an order saying Comcast was violating a federal Internet policy that gives consumers the right to access lawful Internet content and run applications of their choice.

The problem, according to the court, is that there is no specific statute that gives the FCC authority to tell Comcast what it can and can't do with its network. Regulations to promote and preserve an open Internet can't be woven from whole cloth. Congress has to pass a law first.

The FCC is not a quitter, though. "Today's court decision invalidated the prior Commission's approach to preserving an open Internet. But the Court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet; nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end," says FCC Spokesperson Jen Howard.

In an election year, when corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns, and Google and Facebook are up against Telecom giants like Comcast and Verizon, we are in for a treat!

1 comment:

Wayne said...

There shouldn't be any need for an act of Congress. The FCC needs to finally use its existing authority to regulate the cable companies as communications service providers (which they obviously are) as opposed to "information service" providers, which, according to the court, it may not regulate even for purposes of assuring net neutrality.