Internet to Remain Open and Free…For Now
Apr 7, 2010
The Federal Communications Commission was dealt a deserved blow when the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit overruled the FCC’s decision to bar Comcast from blocking P2P file sharing applications, including BitTorrent. This ruling re-iterated what many opposed to net neutrality have argued for years—the Commission does not have the jurisdictional authority to regulate how web providers manage their networks.
So what does this mean? Well, in the meantime the internet will truly remain open and free (not the sort of open and free proponents of internet regulation advocate) but this doesn’t mean the fight is over. As Kelly Cobb, my ATR colleague situated two doors down wrote:
…prepare for FCC Chairman Genachowski to try to recreate the bounds of their jurisdiction. As we’ve noted before, FCC has long determined the Internet is an “information service” and should be treated as such under Title I of the Communications Act (see here, here, here, and here). But this Title I “ancillary jurisdiction” is essentially what brought them down. So, instead of appropriately seeking Congressional approval, expect them to find a way to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act. This would put the Net under an outdated regulatory scheme designed for traditional phone lines, giving them a better shot of enacting Net Neutrality, as well as regulating Internet speed, pricing, and taxes, amongst other things. After all, they already tossed the idea into their National Broadband Plan.
As PRA has stated before, net neutrality stands firmly against private property rights. Simply put, neutrality regulations would provide the federal government extensive power to mandate how businesses can provide Internet service to their consumers. Innovation and investment in the Internet has occurred due to an absence of government regulation and interference. Broadband providers have invested billions in their networks and have a right to manage them the way they see fit. The fact is they do have property rights in their systems that need to be recognized and protected.
Free markets and a lack of unnecessary government intrusion are important to keep this country working as efficiently as possible. In this light, we applaud the decision of the DC Circuit.