Net Neutrality in Jeopardy

In a blow to the Obama administration, an appeals court humbles the FCC

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In a sweeping decision, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC can't regulate how Internet service providers (ISPs) control their network traffic. It's a significant blow to net-neutrality advocates and the Obama administration, which sought to expand the FCC's powers. (Catch up on Wire coverage of the complex net-neutrality debate herehereherehere, and here.) This ruling opens the door for Web providers to charge more for access to sites that hog more bandwidth, such as Hulu and BitTorrent. In favor of the ruling, Web providers argue that it encourages investment in broadband infrastructure for faster connection speeds. Here are the consequences of today's ruling:

  • This Guts Obama's National Broadband Plan, writes Joelle Tessler at The Huffington Post: "[This] has serious implications for the massive national broadband plan released by the FCC last month. The FCC needs clear authority to regulate broadband in order to push ahead with some its key recommendations, including a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the federal fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities."

  • Web Companies Lose, write Tony Romm and Kim Hart at The Hill: "[It's] a major defeat for Google, Skype, and other Internet firms that have been huge proponents of net neutrality. Google has led the charge for 'open' platforms that prevent ISPs and wireless companies from discriminating against certain applications and devices."
  • A Blow to Consumer Groups, writes Jennifer Valentino-DeVries at The Wall Street Journal: "Organizations such as We Are the Web argue that net neutrality gives consumers the freest access to the widest variety of content. Last year, the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, said in a statement that without net neutrality, Internet providers “will constantly invent excuses to exercise their market power to undermine competition and limit the freedom of speech.” If the issue comes before Congress again, these groups will move into high gear."
  • Don't Look for Any Response From Congress, writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: "Democrats have been singularly uninterested in pursuing the kind of legislation that the FCC needs to extend its authority.  They certainly campaigned on the issue, and progressives expected action on it in this session of Congress.  Unfortunately, Democrats fumbled the health-care bill so badly that they probably have no time left to consider net neutrality, or for that matter, the stomach for another hard-Left agenda item before the midterm elections."
  • I Have Mixed Feelings, writes new media guru Jeff Jarvis: "On the one hand, I do not want government regulation of the internet. On the other hand, I do not want monopoly discrimination against bits on the internet. I see it as a principle that all bits are, indeed, created equal. But how is this enforced when internet service is provided by monopolies? Regulation. But I don’t want regulation. But… That is the vicious cycle of the net neutrality debate." He goes on to propose a Bill of Rights for cyberspace.
I. We have a right to connect.
II. We have the right to speak.
III. We have the right to assemble.
IV. We have the right to act.
V. We have the right to control our data.
VI. We have the right to control our identity.
VII. What is public is a public good.
VIII. All bits are created equal.
IX. The internet shall be operated openly.
  • Net Neutrality Not Dead Yet, writes Chris Thompson at The Big Money: "The FCC will most likely push this up the courts, so net neutrality isn't dead just yet. But this ruling could have wide and unforeseen consequences for how we use the Web and what we pay for the privilege. "
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.