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Federal Appeals Court Strikes Major Blow Against Net Neutrality, Major Blow For Economic Freedom

by @ 12:57 pm on April 6, 2010. Filed under Business, Economics, Internet, Media, Politics, Technology

The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. today hand a major defeat to the Net Neutrality crowd:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

Tuesday’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for the Comcast Corporation, the nation’s largest cable company. It had challenged the F.C.C.’s authority to impose so called “net neutrality” obligations.

The ruling marks a serious setback for the F.C.C., which is trying to officially set net neutrality regulations. The agency chairman Julius Genachowski argues that such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over Internet access to favor some online content and services over others.

The decision also has implications for the massive national broadband plan released by the F.C.C. last month. The agency 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 court case centered on Comcast’s challenge of a 2008 F.C.C. order banning the company from blocking its broadband subscribers from using an online file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent.

Melissa Clouthier over at Liberty Pundits sums up quite nicely what this really means:

Basically this means that a company can do business the way it wants to. What different internet providers have been worried about is having the “information spigot” turned off for them. That is, a user or provider who uses huge amounts of bandwidth could be denied, and that could kill business.

So companies like Google and other big providers wanted the courts to say that the FCC could control this and guarantee that everyone has as much bandwidth as they want.

But the court ruled that a company like Comcast has every right to decide what data it carries.

That is exactly how it should be.

In the case that was before the Court, Comcast had made the business decision that Bit Torrent users were utilizing an undue amount of a limited asset, bandwidth, and in order to protect it’s network and allow the majority of it’s users to be able to do things like check their email without having to worry about the network going down because some 21 year old is using Bit Torrent to download a bootleg copy of Avatar.

It’s Comcast’s network, they should have the right to decide how it’s used and to take action to protect it’s property and it’s other customers.

The Court got this one right.

Here’s the 36 page unanimous opinion:

Comcast v. Federal Communications Commission

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11 Responses to “Federal Appeals Court Strikes Major Blow Against Net Neutrality, Major Blow For Economic Freedom”

  1. Vast Variety says:

    If Comcast has this control what is to stop them from controlling what sort of content you have access to? For instance, lets say Comcast doesn’t like what you post on your blog Doug… what’s to stop them from blocking it? If you say that people can just switch carriers if they don’t like their service then you are mistaken. If I want access to the internet on anything other than Dial up then I have 1 option, Mediacom. There is no other high speed internet provider in my area.

  2. That’s why the other side of the coin is to end cable monopolies and allow for more competition.

    Here in Northern Virginia, Comcast is facing serious competition from Verizon FIOS. Their service has improved significantly as a result.

    And, bandwidth providers are more likely to discriminate on the basis of what type of service is being a bandwidth hog than the content of a blog post.

  3. Vast Variety says:

    True, but as the article mentioned there is nothing stopping Comcast from blocking or slowing down content from organizations such as Fox or ABC and CBS, especially if they are able to get approval to purchase NBC.

  4. And if they do that, they’ll start losing subscribers.

  5. Darren says:

    I’m a web developer and have been watching this for a while. Net neutrality started out as a good idea until the government got a hold of it. Basically you don’t want your ISP doing deep packet inspections of your content and deciding how much bandwidth you get. You pay for a certain bandwidth and you should get it regardless of the content. The government regulating your web content is about as much of a good idea as the “fairness doctrine”. This was the best news I’ve seen in a couple weeks.

    Vast is correct your ISP can decide what you see. Ever type in the wrong address and get your comcast or charter “page not found” with suggestions and advertisments? That’s because you send out request to your ISP’s DNS (domain name server) to ask what IP address belongs to belowthebeltway.com for example. Once you get the IP your sent on your way to Doug’s host. Its pretty easy to bypass your ISP’s DNS and use something like http://www.opendns.com. Or you can be a real dork and run your own DNS.

    Obviously your still on their network but there are other tricks you can use.

  6. Vast Variety says:

    Loose subscribers? Too who? If Mediacom blocked my access to NBC because of Comcast’s ownership of it (if the deal goes through), then who am I supposed to switch to in order to get that access back?

    And actually Comcast is hurting itself with this ruling because all the FCC has to do is to reclassify internet traffic back to what it was, and undoing the deregulation that it put in place for broadband in 2005, which would be even worse then letting the FCC enforce Net Neutrality.

    No one should own the Internet or the access to it. I don’t mind paying a free to basically rent the hardware that allows me to connect to the Internet, but no one should be allowed to say what I can and can’t surf for, regardless of if that is Uncle Sam or Bill Gates.

  7. That’s exactly why I am saying that the next step must be an end to local cable monopolies. There can’t be a free market in broadband as long as the government controls who can do business.

  8. Like I said, in many areas, such as here in Virginia, there is competition. If Comcast screws around with me, I can go to Verizon and wouldn’t even know the difference.

  9. Vast Variety says:

    Rural city governments, like Grinnell here, sell these companies charters to provide service and limit competition because without such limits the cable companies wouldn’t provide service at all because there simply wouldn’t be enough money it to make it worth it. It follows the same pattern as rural electrical power and telephone service.

    When I was growing up in southern Iowa we couldn’t get a cable company to provide service to us in Derby for anything because in order to get to a population of 150 you would have to include the dogs and cats, which out numbered the human population at about 2:1. It just wasn’t worth it to the cable company to invest in the infrastructure to provide the service.

  10. Andrew says:

    Vast, you still have alternative options to cable internet in rural areas, i.e. dial-up, DSL, or satellite internet such as HughesNet.

  11. Let's Be Free says:

    Didn’t like Comcast, so I changed to FIOS and could not be happier. Competitive, free and open markets work.

    Having grown up with first no TV, then three stations for a couple of decades I find it amusing that people think that somehow there is a grand corporate conspiracy out there to cut down on the number of options and outlets. Cable choices have proliferated beyond belief since the FCC deregulated. We the individual consumer had the least choice when the government had the most control over what came into our homes. Really.

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