Court sides with Comcast, challenges FCC's Net Neutrality efforts

Court sides with Comcast, challenges FCC's Net Neutrality efforts

Summary: A federal appeals court today ruled against the FCC and its Net Neutrality efforts, finding that it does not have the authority to regulate ISPs such as Comcast.


updated with Comcast's statement

Comcast scored a victory today when a federal appeals court shot down the Federal Communications Commission's ability to regulate Internet service providers. (Techmeme)

Essentially, it's a blow to so-called Net Neutrality efforts, the push that would keep Internet Service providers like Comcast from differentiating - and treating differently - heavy users of the Internet. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (PDF) said that FCC does not have the authority to require Comcast to treat all Internet traffic the same on its network. From the ruling:

The Commission may exercise this "ancillary" authority only if it demonstrates that its action—here barring Comcast from interfering with its customers’ use of peer-to-peer networking applications—is "reasonably ancillary to the . . . effective performance of its statutorily mandated responsibilities..."

The Commission has failed to make that showing. It relies principally on several Congressional statements of policy, but under Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit case law statements of policy, by themselves, do not create "statutorily mandated responsibilities." The Commission also relies on various provisions of the Communications Act that do create such responsibilities, but for a variety of substantive and procedural reasons those provisions cannot support its exercise of ancillary authority over Comcast’s network management practices. We therefore grant Comcast’s petition for review and vacate the challenged order.

Beyond that, the ruling puts the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which was submitted to Congress last month, in legal limbo because Net Neutrality was an integral part of it. Almost immediately, public interest groups started to chime in on the decision. Washington-based Public Knowledge, for example, said the decision harms consumers. From its statement:

Companies selling Internet access are free to play favorites with content on their networks, to throttle certain applications or simply to block others. The ability of the FCC to support broadband through universal service is in jeopardy, as is the agency’s ability to protect consumer privacy, ensure access to broadband-based emergency communications or promote access to broadband for the disabled.  In our view, the FCC needs to move quickly and decisively to make sure that consumers are not left at the mercy of telephone and cable companies.

update: Comcast issued an official statement in response to the court's ruling:

We are gratified by the Court’s decision today to vacate the previous FCC’s order. Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation. We have always been focused on serving our customers and delivering the quality open-Internet experience consumers want. Comcast remains committed to the FCC’s existing open Internet principles, and we will continue to work constructively with this FCC as it determines how best to increase broadband adoption and preserve an open and vibrant Internet.

Topics: Telcos, Browser, Government, Government US, Networking

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  • Well, that sucks for us

    Not sure what they're thinking.
    • Here's that they're thinking...

      Now this is a court, so they just interpret the law.

      However, your congressmen (if you're in the States) need money to keep campaiging, so they can keep their jobs.

      Who's got a lot of money? Comcast does! They influence leaders of our legislative branch through contributions and other forms of "free speech" to pass laws in their favor, giving them increased market share / profits. People continue to vote down the party line and the chuckleheads get re-elected, and the process starts over.

      I say it's about time for same campaign finance reform.
      • or they decided the limited gov't model holds...

        As devils advocate... The Constitution is written to limit the power of gov't. Maybe, without a specific law granting the feds the right to regulate, the courts decided they didn't have that power.

        The FCC can't decide they have the right to regulate. The Executive and Legislative branchs must grant the FCC that power. Without that - ANY agency could just decide they had the right to regulate anything that sounded like it might fall into their realm of control, no?
        • Very true, regulation needs to be kept in check.

          However, given the past few years (Enron, toxic mortgages, privatization of the military, insurance and financial insitutions failing, rampant and systemic abuse in the health care system) it's pretty clear that the regulations are not working.

          I would argue in many cases we need more regulation (health care, finance, insurance, cable/telco, energy). We also need to make sure the regulators are effective and not susceptible to corruption. Given free reign, companies will pursue profit without regard for the environment, the health and welfare of their workers, the stability and security of the country, and so forth.

          And since the legislative / executive branches define how things are regulated, and by who, they are responsible for any troubles brought about by poor or ineffective governance.

          But _we_ put them into office, so until the populace decides to educate themselves on what their own government is doing, the status quo will remain.
          • Actually, it is Capitalism which needs watching

            Ultimately, the reason the Constitution grants to Congress the power to regulate interstate trade is because the founders understood that Capitalists are, by definition, entirely dedicated to the shareholders (capitalists) and are immoral in all other considerations, therefore some force far greater must be leveled against the for-profit motive when it becomes destructive to the gain of all for the benefit of the few.
            Remember, the top 5% own 88% of all shares of stock, and therefore all of capitalism works FOR THEM, against US.
          • Capitalism

            Nothing could be more true: Those who have have control. Those who DON"T have must pay the price, whether it's oil, groceries, clothing, financial services....
            They are the ones who seem to be called "Conservatives", this is the way we've always done it, whether it works or not. (Note that it always works for "them".) Money talks, and what it's saying today is that "We have it, you don't, and we're going to continue to bilk you and the general public as a whole out of as much as the markets will bear, for as long as we can get away with it.
            If you think I'm wrong, you need to put a window in your stomach so you can see where you are going with your head stuck up your a$$.
          • How can it be capitalism's fault?

            It's the government and PUCs that force everyone
            to do business with Comcast in the first place.
          • Another wow.

            Jaw hits floor in amazement.
          • RE: The "horrors" of capitalism

            Because socialism worked so well for the Soviets and Eastern Europe. Capitalism has its flaws, and it only as good as the people who operate under it, but there's no other system that works better. Any system of 're-distribution' works to kill incentive to produce. As the saying goes, "Capitalism is the worst system, except for all the other systems."
          • Wow.

            Unbelievable, and sad.
          • If there were more democracy...

            in the stock ownership system, WE would own the majority of the stock, and WE would quit hiring greedy no good for nothing robber barons, because WE would control the board room and be the major players in corporate boardrooms.

            This would be the next revolution in capitalism, and would be a radical and well thought out change for America!

            Too many people have been complaining about how America does business, when they could BECOME the business; however without better rules on corporate stock holder governance, we will continue to see stupid things like the last meltdown on Wall Street, and the regulatory nightmare THAT FAILED THE SYSTEM by the WAY!!

            What good is it to regulate and regulate, when the stupid regulators won't even do their job in the first place?!!?? Maybe if some of them were thrown in jail along with Mr. Ponzi scheme himself Bernie Maddoff, perhaps we would be having less as many of these conversations also!!!
          • Your wealth envy is showing... and it's not pretty.

            What in the world is wrong with you people SLAMMING capitalism? In every country where Socialism has been tried, it has been an abject failure. Capitalism is the only system that has worked whenever it was tried!

            My god the ignorance in this comment thread is staggering.
          • You are totally twisting my goal..

            my goal is PERFECT capatalizm, where the people own the stock and have a say in it!

            There is no wrote book or design on stock ownership, the present system isn't working because the little guy hasn't any say on the board, because his less than preferred stock isn't good enough to garner votes in the proxy elections.

            It is my contention that all non-preferred stock owners should have a vote and a man on the board as long as they collectively own more than 50% of the total stock.

            You would see less of this good-buddy fat cat CEO's robbing the company blind and making off with golden parachutes even if they don't perform correctly.

            If they don't do something like this soon, it will become a regulation to control CEO power and pay, and THAT IS A BIG FAIL!!

            There is really is nothing wrong with our system that a few tweaks wouldn't fix. They weren't enforcing the regulations we had on the books before, what good are stiff regulations if you don't use them?

            If they would employ this and fix our antiquated patent office to protect intellectual rights; this country(US) would get going again, in good order. We just need some natural checks and balances in our capitalistic system to make it more viable for the future! The entrepreneur need a little protection and small businesses would flourish!

            I feel our government has become the enemy of the middle class, and that has always been the bane of history.
          • Excuse me? Profit is immoral?

            Are you serious? Please tell me you're being facetious! Capitalism is NOT evil; socialism IS! When was the last time you got a job from a poor man? Geez-o-petes, the ignorance in this thread so far is mind-boggling. And truly sad. Wow...just wow.
          • We as consumers

            It is we as consumers who have the power to regulate the so called capitalists. If we do not like the price of a product or service or the price a company charges for it, then we have the option of not purchasing it.

            Capitalism in theory is a great thing. But when greed becomes a factor in any form of society then it is up to the people to regulate it. The US government works for the people. When it oversteps its' bounds, again it is up to the people to regulate or control it through the election process.

            'Power to the people!'
          • Regulation kept in check ????

            Have you been paying attention ???? This ruling effectively gives Comcrap the ability to control content and anything else it deems appropriate or inappropriate on it's network. They've already proved that derugulation can't work, either for Internet Providers OR Media services....There is no competition in a market that looks more like price-fixing than anything else, and letting the providers dictate what and how we receive media services ??? Madness.
            You can't blame the politicians, although apt appointments might not have forced Digital TV and HD down our throats....wherein these damn providers decide for themselves that they are charging "fair" prices.....and that we need it, them, and their services....this is ALL bul$#&*, and it's about time we looked at the JUDICIAL system, which IS responsible for this anti-consumer judgement......New Constitutional laws, perhaps ???
          • Exactly which regulations were repealed

            I hear the claim that "deregulation doesnt work" but nobody is able to point to any meaningful regulations that were suspended.

            If comcast decides to block content you wish to view, will you remain their customer?

            Perhaps we should do as you say and let govt control everything--like they do in China--they dont censor anything.
          • Umm... deregulation of the energy market?

            Remember a company called Enron? Manipulating the energy market to force prices up and make a killing?

            And I have no broadband alternatives in rural America, so Comcast can (and does) stick it to me fairly regularly.

            No, government should not control everything. But corporations shouldn't have complete free reign either, should they?
          • A little search through historical news can answer that.

            Maybe you should look at some of the banking regulations that were
            repealed by Congress during President Regan's term of office. Maybe
            you should look at some of the communications regulations that were
            repealed during the first President Bush term and others during
            President Clinton's term. All you have to do is search for the word
            'Deregulation' to find almost every example.

            [i]"If comcast decides to block content you wish to view, will you remain
            their customer?" [/i]
            I will--for one simple reason. I have NO choice. Comcast has a
            negotiated monopoly in my area preventing any and all competition by
            any entity that [i]could[/i] offer television programming over wires. This
            includes FIOS and DSL. This kind of deal should be illegal, but obviously
            the FCC has no control over the situation and Congress isn't likely to
            change it.

            On the other hand, if everybody here and everybody you know were to
            vote ALL incumbent politicians out of office, maybe, just maybe, things
            will improve.

            Then again, they could get worse. As some would say, "Better the devil
            you know, than the one you don't know."
          • A better solution...

            I've tried to start ISPs in markets that were dominated by one player (Sprint in this case) and run into REGULATIONS that kept me from such a startup!!!

            Now I think what would be a better solution is to END THAT KIND OF RULE MAKING and let competition move in!

            I think a law was passed not long ago that ends these types of monopolies in rural markets, but it was too late for me.

            Their would be a LOT more competition if the big players did not have REGULATION in their favor!!