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. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • Silver_Witch

    2600 was my favorite “computer” magazine…still get it sometimes. Oh…how I loved it!

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    I never got into the BBS scene although I’m old enough (just barely!) to remember it; the local San Diego computer magazine, the “Byte Buyer”, ran lists. Who knows? Maybe that’s where things will go again.

  • Graying_Witch

    I remember the old BBS system which we ran through (if I am not mistaken and my senility is not showing) many edu nets via telephone connectivity. Seems to me I had a lot of fun in the early 90′s a certain Pagan Cafe! And a few fun gaming sites, which one would not even consider gaming – more like DnD typing frenzie.

  • Jessica J. Castillo

    there was no “Internet”, only a number of proprietary networks such as AOL and Prodigy.

  • Anonymous

    It was pretty much inevitable that the Internet would become a corporate frontier, as with everything else. It’s no longer seen as the intellectual tool it once was – just a marketing tool. It’s been bought out and compromised by its investors.

  • trinu

    Seeing as the FCC Chairman is an industry insider, I doubt we’ll see the FCC do the right thing, especially since the fact that broadband hasn’t been classified as a telecommunications service reeks of corruption.

  • OUpory1960

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  • Indigo

    With any luck at all. The obstructionists could remove themselves from these merely temporal concerns. But perhaps I’m being disrespectful. It wouldn’t be the first time. :)

  • Badgerite

    Even TR would need to get a hold of a decent Congress to get anywhere. He didn’t do it alone.

  • Badgerite

    Yes, I’m sure what you say is true. But I sure would not be complacent about this. The record may be fleshed out by other courts. Other arguments posited. But if the decision of the DC Circuit is on sound legal ground, as it may be, the SCOTUS as it is currently comprised would probably uphold it.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    Get drunk and shoot himself? :p

  • Indigo

    That’s exactly how I expect it to go. The issue hinges on whether the courts can understand that the internet is in fact a public utility. I’m doubtful they’re that advanced and that’s where the problem takes roost. Altogether too much of our society is trying to use mid-20th century WW2 thinking to resolve these 21st century technological matters. It’s as if the only question in their minds is “What would Poppa Hemingway do?”

  • nicho

    The presidency is now in the hands of the corporations. You cannot be elected president — or indeed even be a viable presidential candidate — unless you are in the employ of the corporations. That is the main problem. Until we change that, nothing else will change. Third parties, TR-type candidates, whatever will do nothing to change the system.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    Proprietary networks, although clumsy, can work reasonably well and are more likely to give Big Brother a free pass to snoop and censor.

    Yep. Because all that’s needed is for the owner of that proprietary network to make a private deal with the spooks and there’s nothing its users can do about it. After all, if they don’t like being spied on, they are “free” to go somewhere else.

    Really what we’re seeing here is an assault on the very notion of a public utility. Internet access is the newest addition to the roster of public utilities so it is most susceptible to attack. Attacks on others will follow, however.

  • Indigo

    That sounds about right. Proprietary networks, although clumsy, can work reasonably well and are more likely to give Big Brother a free pass to snoop and censor. In those halcyon days of yore, I was blessed with dot-ed access but retirement brings with it limitations and the public net is one of them. I’m beginning to intuit that the 21st century is an increasingly foreign place, fraught with spies and traps and hidden taxation.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    We live in a country ruled by the corporations with the facade of a democracy to placate the masses. I’m sure it’s cheaper than bread and circuses.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    I’m reminded a bit more of the old days when, for the citizen at large anyway, there was no “Internet”, only a number of proprietary networks such as AOL and Prodigy. We’re probably heading back in that direction again.

  • mpeasee

    …interesting perspective, thanks for sharing.

  • just me

    as upsetting as the decision is, the DC Circuit is the weakest and least precedential of all of the circuits, esp. in regards to IP-IT issues. this decision has no force outside of DC. until the 9th (the most influential in the country, esp. on IP-IT issues) and the 2nd (the 2nd most influential in the country) circuits rule on this issue and whether they will follow the DC circuit’s opinion, panic is uncalled for. what this decision presages is a circuit split that can only be resolved by the supreme court, which will take years. in issues like net neutrality the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” absolutely applies.

  • http://liberawheeler.blogspot.com/ Elijah Jacob Shalis

    Corporations seem to be getting their way all kinds of ways in the courts and congress and even with the President. We need a Theodore Roosevelt type to come along and knock these fat cats to the ground.

  • Indigo

    Welcome to Modern China.

  • mamazboy

    Anonymous? Get busy.

  • Buford2k11

    The FCC has been in the employ of the corporations for years…The really big fuck up was when they relaxed the rules on “ownership”…thus began the corporate distillation of the media…and folks like Murdock used the relaxation of the regulations to become a faux American…the last bastion of “free speech” is the Net…and now the corporations have won the war…they own half the house and half of the senate, they own five of the nine Scotus….and just missed the executive branch…and now the net…I guess we have to go back to face to face meetings, if possible…It’s a Brave New World out there, friends…

  • cole3244

    the fcc was always on the side of the corps its solution was only window dressing for public consumption, until we elect legitimate left of center pols rather than these poor excuses for the same freedoms and democracy will continue to suffer.
    obama was a better choice only because he was to the left of romney but his true agenda is more in tune with the cons and the big players in america, the 99% are a means to an end but the 1% are his peeps.

  • ronbo

    Our owners have spoken. Now open your wallet, they need more, a lot more.

    If only 85 of them can own more than 3.5 billion of us… they KNOW something is wrong. They’d like to whittle more of our middle class into their pocket. Assist credit goes out to the Executive branch, Congress and the Supreme Court.

    Is the FCC working for the public or corporations? We’ll soon learn by their actions here.

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