FCC’s Open Internet Defeated: Commission Undergoes Uncomfortable Neutering Procedure

by Matt Klassen on April 8, 2010

My Open Letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski: Chairman Genachowski, while I commend you for fighting against baseless censorship and unfair Internet practices employed by Comcast and many other American broadband suppliers, wouldn’t you want to check if Comcast was breaking an actual law before the FCC sued them? Thanks to your ineptitude, the problem now becomes that the FCC loses all weight behind its admirable Net Neutrality plan, as the courts ruling has effectively neutered your organization of any power over telecom companies across the country. Sincerely, Thanks for Nothing.

Who doesn’t love the FCC? I mean, another faceless bureaucratic entity that meddles in public affairs, trying to legislate morality and impose baseless regulations on telecommunications across the country—there’s just so much too appreciate. But for the thousands of times that the FCC has made everyone’s lives worse, on one of the rare occasions in which they are actually fighting for the common good, the courts have stopped them dead in their tracks.

For years the FCC has been pushing its Open Internet agenda, dubbed Net Neutrality, which at its core fights for the public’s right to have free and unfettered access to all the content and services available on the Web. Simply stated, no external bodies, such as services providers or the FCC itself, should be allowed to either impede or favor access to particular sites or applications. Sounds good, right? But somehow the FCC has managed to screw this one up.

In 2008 the FCC sued Comcast based loosely on these Net Neutrality standards, accusing Comcast of illegally throttling back the amount of their broadband network dedicated to peer to peer services like BitTorrent. While Comcast initially denied limiting available broadband to data intensive sites such as this, they later admitted that they regulate certain sites in an effort to effectively manage their network and give their other users faster service.

Today it was announced that the US appeals court has sided with Comcast, essentially stating that Internet providers can do anything they want with their customer’s broadband service. But why did the courts rule against the FCC and their Net Neutrality program? Oh ya, it’s because the right to an open internet is just something the FCC made up. There is no law passed by congress that supports, in any way, the openness and availability of the Internet that the FCC is pushing for.

While I sincerely hope the Net Neutrality program isn’t dead, the FCC has two unappealing options from this point on. They can either appeal the ruling of the Appeals court, bringing the case before a Supreme Court that will, most likely, say again that the FCC’s allegations aren’t wrong, per se, they just are founded on any particular law; or they can try to push legislation through Congress, which, lamentably, has failed on several occasions already.

So, until new legislation is passed to give the FCC’s Net Neutrality a firm legal foundation, it leaves this regulatory body essentially powerless, as it can neither implement nor enforce any rules pertaining to how telecom companies manage their networks. So what’s the FCC good for again?

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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