News broke today that the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the FCC in a net neutrality case vs Comcast. The FCC had previously ordered Comcast to cease treating web traffic for different customers differently (which they had apparently done to slow down connections for users heavily engaged in bittorrent use).
The court today ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to do such a thing, and now many throughout the Internet industry are growing concerned about what this ruling may mean for the future of net neutrality.
"Today’s DC Circuit decision in Comcast creates a dangerous situation, one where the health and openness of broadband Internet is being held hostage by the behavior of the major telco and cable providers.
"The Court has taken an aggressive position, rejecting the FCC’s legal authority to implement broadband Internet policy under Title I of the Communications Act. The legal challenge to Title I authority by Comcast has created an outcome where the FCC has no option but to immediately open a proceeding to clarify its authority over broadband network providers under Title II.
"The Court’s sweeping decision eliminates the Agency’s power to either enforce the Internet Policy Statement or possibly to promulgate new open Internet rules to protect consumers and small businesses under Title I. As a result, the FCC is now unable to police broadband networks against anti-competitive and anti-consumer behavior by broadband providers, and may not be able to implement many of the elements of the National Broadband Plan, including comprehensive Universal Service Fund (USF) reform.
"The court recognized this issue and appeared to invite the Commission to proceed against Comcast and other broadband Internet access providers under Title II. Establishing limited Title II authority with restraint and forbearance over broadband Internet access will remedy the Agency’s own now-discredited attempt to cobble together ancillary authority under Title I. That effort, undertaken by the previous Administration, was based on numerous incorrect legal, technological, and market assumptions. By contrast, Title II authority rests on sound factual and legal grounds, and will serve as a strong foundational basis for the FCC to protect access connections for consumers and small businesses."
The FCC itself has issued the following statement on the subject:
"The FCC is firmly committed to promoting an open Internet and to policies that will bring the enormous benefits of broadband to all Americans. It will rest these policies — all of which will be designed to foster innovation and investment while protecting and empowering consumers — on a solid legal foundation."
"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."
Interestingly enough, no update has been made on the FCC’s OpenInternet.gov site, about what the next steps are. One can only assume this will be addressed here before too long.