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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Net Neutrality Gets a Punch in the Gut

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Tue, Apr 6, 2010 at 1:46 PM

This is you on Comcast.
  • This is you on Comcast.
It's a sad day for those of us who like to push the envelope of acceptable internet use. A Washington DC federal appeals court ruled today that the Federal Communications Commission cannot enforce net neutrality.

The FCC was hoping to require that internet providers offer equal and unfettered access to all parts of the internet.

This particular case dates to 2008, when Comcast (which is now re-branding as "Xfinity," much as Blackwater is now "Xe") decided it wanted to restrict access to the BitTorrent file sharing platform to save bandwidth. That caused the FCC to issue an order blocking the move, which Comcast then appealed. And here we are.

The FCC is somewhat neutered by this decision, at a time when it's looking to aggressively expand internet access to more of the country. From the LA Times article:

The decision also has serious implications for the massive national broadband plan released by the FCC last month. The FCC needs clear authority to regulate broadband in order to push ahead with some its key recommendations, including a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the federal fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities.

The FCC currently treats internet providers as a "lightly regulated" service. That means that unlike phone service, it's not required to treat all traffic equally. Now the FCC might appeal the decision, or simply re-classify internet providers as a more heavily regulated service.

That could put the kibosh on Comcast's content-filtering for good. Ben Scott with the nonprofit group Free Press:

"Comcast swung an ax at the FCC to protest the BitTorrent order, and they sliced right through the FCC's arm and plunged the ax into their own back."

No response yet from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the most prolific defenders of all rights Internet-related.


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