FCC routed on "net neutrality" 

A unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission has no authority to impose net neutrality regulations on Internet companies. The decision was written by Judge David Tatel, who was appointed to the bench by Bill Clinton. Net neutrality means that Internet service providers would not be able to charge higher rates to transmit Internet content that requires more bandwith, like video. The cable companies would like to be able to charge more, because high-bandwith material slows their service to all customers which puts them potentially at a competitive disadvantage. Google and other big companies favor net neutrality, since they produced content that requires large bandwith (Google owns YouTube).

Efforts to pass net neutrality bills in Congress have failed, despite the talents of longtime communications subcommittee chairman and ranking member Edward Markey. An analysis presented in this article suggests that the D.C. Circuit decision may have pretty much ended the drive not net neutrality legislation.

“Sam Feder, a lawyer who formerly served as general counsel for the FCC, said that the court’s decision is ‘the worst of all worlds for the FCC.’ He said the opinion was written narrowly enough that it was unlikely to be successfully appealed, while also raising enough alternative possibilities of other ways that the FCC could accomplish the same goals that it was unlikely to inspire congressional action to give the agency specific regulatory authority over the Internet.”

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Michael Barone

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