Appeals Court to Hear Arguments Over FCC’s Net-Neutrality Rules

4 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Appeals Court to Hear Arguments Over FCC’s Net-Neutrality Rules.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler led a vote in February to adopt net-neutrality rules governing Internet providers. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) For most Americans, broadband Internet is an everyday miracle. WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission’s new net-neutrality rules will face an important federal-court test in December, when an appeals panel will hear arguments in legal challenges brought by the telecommunications industry. USTelecom, a trade group for broadband providers, and other opponents of the rules sued the FCC this year, saying the commission violated various laws, regulations and procedures when it passed the rules. In a July 27 letter to the editor (“Congress should overrule FCC on net neutrality”), Pat Ford claimed that the rules would have this kind of negative impact, citing “many economists and labor leaders” as her source. Despite occasional scare stories about supposedly faster speeds in some neighborhood in Latvia, average peak U.S. speeds, according to Akamai, are now nearly 50 megabytes per second.

Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday scheduled a Dec. 4 oral-argument date for consideration of the FCC rules, which require equal treatment of Internet traffic. Since the FCC restored net neutrality protections, we’ve seen Comcast, the nation’s largest broadband provider, begin to roll out 2-gigabit fiber services to 18 million locations. Code, Congress exempted broadband Internet access from the very common-carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act that the FCC claims give it the authority to enact net neutrality.

The fairly dense document argues that ISPs, and the services they provide, have no relation to “heavy-handed, public-utility-style regulation designed for 19th-century railroads and 1930s telephone monopolies,” and broadband internet services provide information services rather than telecommunication services. American companies built the backbone through which most of the world’s data travels and are the platform for services such as Facebook, Apple, Google and Netflix that dominate the new, digital economy. But a handful of doomsayers see the glass as empty and, in an effort to remake the Internet as they think it should be, have urged the FCC to “reclassify” the Internet and apply the stringent rules used for yesteryear’s telephone system to your broadband. It is also in response to a court ruling from last year in which the same appeals court struck down the FCC’s previous attempt at open-Internet regulations.

In 1996, the Clinton Administration – including, yes, Vice President Al Gore – realized that the “information superhighway” was about to be born and sought to create a policy framework that would spur its growth. The tersely-worded brief faults the FCC for its interpretation of the Telecommunications Act, calling its February order “the output of an agency determined (or pressured) to reach a particular result,” and struggling to “devise a post hoc justification for contradicting Congress’s pronouncements” on internet service in earlier cases.

In one camp were those who called for rigid government supervision of the nascent Internet by applying the Depression Era rules developed for the Ma Bell telephone monopoly. The new “information superhighway” would be free of old-school phone regulation so that competition would allow it to be widely and affordably deployed, but guaranteed consumer protection as it happened. And that’s largely because the U.S. has different technologies competing to provide service – we have not only fiber, but are a global leader in cable and in 4G/LTE wireless – while Europeans put their faith in the remnants of their old phone companies, extending their antiquated monopolies. In short, the Europeans decided what the Internet was supposed to look like, while we allowed users and providers to determine what it would look like.

Congress should pass legislation that preserves the necessary consumer protections but rolls back the FCC’s reintroduction of telephone monopoly regulations on Internet providers. To make this happen, the political right would have to abandon its instinctive opposition to reasonable government rules protecting the open Internet, and accept that extending it to all Americans isn’t wasteful or unmerited. Those of us – on both sides and in both camps – who were there twenty years ago have a duty to remind today’s policy makers of how the Internet came to be.

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