Ars Technica: Court: FCC had no right to sanction Comcast for P2P blocking. The FCC’s decision to sanction Comcast for its 2007 P2P blocking was overruled today by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The question before the court was whether the FCC had the legal authority to ‘regulate an Internet service provider’s network management practice.’ According to a three-judge panel, ‘the Commission has failed to make that showing’ and the FCC’s order against Comcast is tossed.
We’re in scary territory, but it’s not a big surprise that we are.
Comcast and the other carriers will be emboldened to continue what they’ve started: the subjugation of America’s broadband future to their interests and those of their entertainment industry partners and subsidiaries. Our second-class status in broadband will soon be even worse if they get what they want: turning the Internet to a television-on-steroids system where control is in the middle, where the edges of the networks — that is you and me — do what the center tells us we may do.
The cable and phone companies have built networks from the favored position of having been government-granted monopolies. They are an effective duopoly — wireless providers can’t provide the same bandwidth and they are trapped by the oligopoly (carrier owned, to a major extent) in the backbone networks — and they are going to use it for their benefit, not ours.
This isn’t just a free-speech issue at its core. It also raises some basic economic questions; America lags further and further behind the rest of the developed world in taking advantage of broadband’s potential, and the consequences of our inaction grow more serious every year.
While I’m skeptical of all of the specific network-neutrality fixes I’ve seen so far — unintended consequences worry me — I’m absolutely freaked out at the trend. We are turning over our fundamental rights to communicate and collaborate to companies that have not earned even a semblance of trust.
The FCC’s incoherent policy-making is only partly the issue here. More important is the refusal of Congress to do its job. If only that was surprising.
Network neutrality has always been the kind of issue requiring serious engagement from the lawmakers. As they do so often, they’ve ducked and dodged, leaving it to regulators to make vital policy decisions.
Will Congress wake up? And even if it does, given our pay-to-play lawmaking environment these days, will it do the right thing? My doubts keep growing, on both counts.