DC Circuit rules against Net Neutrality; big (bad) Internet changes could be coming

UPDATE: CREDO is already out with a petition to the FCC commissioner. No reason not to sign it:

Verizon killed Net Neutrality. But the FCC can save it.

Click here to add your name. And thanks. (Note that they’re making Verizon the perp. Smart move. You can do that too, every time you talk about this issue. “Verizon killed Net Neutrality” rolls right off the tongue, sentence one. Sentence two could easily start, “Their lobbyists bought the right to control the Internet…”.)
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I haven’t seen coverage of this here, so I offer the following as news only. This potentially Internet-changing event is only a few days old and is still being digested.

Keep in mind that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the most conservative and corporate-friendly of all the district courts. Congress works hard to keep it that way.

Let’s start with a press release from the open-Internet organization Freepress (my emphasis throughout):

Court Strikes Down FCC Open Internet Order

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order. In its decision, the court said that the FCC lacked the authority to implement and enforce its rules under the legal framework the agency put forth.

net-neutralityThe FCC’s 2010 order was intended to prevent broadband Internet access providers from blocking or interfering with traffic on the Web. Instead of reversing a Bush-era FCC decision that weakened the FCC’s authority over broadband, and establishing solid legal footing for its rules, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski pushed for rules under the complicated legal framework the court rejected today.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“We’re disappointed that the court came to this conclusion. Its ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies — and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will.

“The compromised Open Internet Order struck down today left much to be desired, but it was a step toward maintaining Internet users’ freedom to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and communicate freely online. Now, just as Verizon promised it would in court, the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV. They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.

The FCC — under the leadership of former Chairman Julius Genachowski — made a grave mistake when it failed to ground its open Internet rules on solid legal footing. Internet users will pay dearly for the previous chairman’s lack of political will. That’s why we need to fix the problems the agency could have avoided in the first place.

“New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently stated that the FCC must have the ability to protect broadband users and preserve the Internet’s fundamental open architecture. In order to do that, he must act quickly to restore and reassert the FCC’s clear authority over our nation’s communications infrastructure. The agency must follow its statutory mandate to make broadband communications networks open, accessible, reliable and affordable for everyone. … ”

And this, from the alarmed Michael Hiltzik:

Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords

Advocates of a free and open Internet could see this coming, but today’s ruling from a Washington appeals court striking down the FCC’s rules protecting the open net was worse than the most dire forecasts. It was “even more emphatic and disastrous than anyone expected,” in the words of one veteran advocate for network neutrality.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit thoroughly eviscerated the Federal Communications Commission’s latest lame attempt to prevent Internet service providers from playing favorites among websites–awarding faster speeds to sites that pay a special fee, for example, or slowing or blocking sites and services that compete with favored affiliates.

Big cable operators like Comcast and telecommunications firms like Verizon, which brought the lawsuit on which the court ruled, will be free to pick winners and losers among websites and services. Their judgment will most likely be based on cold hard cash–Netflix wants to keep your Internet provider from slowing its data so its films look like hash? It will have to pay your provider the big bucks. But the governing factor need not be money. (Comcast remains committed to adhere to the net neutrality rules overturned today until January 2018, a condition placed on its 2011 merger with NBC Universal; after that, all bets are off.)

“AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason,” telecommunications lawyer Marvin Ammori (he’s the man quoted above) observed even before the ruling came down. “Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.” …

As always, there’s much more here, and it’s an important subject. Keep your eye on this one; it could mean big changes.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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