Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Appeals court sides with Comcast, guts FCC network neutrality policy

A federal appeals court ruled today that Comcast can slow down the delivery of some video or streaming content to high-volume users in order to deliver consistent service to all customers.

Zdnet has a comprehensive story with links to Comcast’s statement, “Court sides with Comcast, sides with FCC’s Net Neutrality Efforts”, link here.

From the Opinion:

“The Commission may exercise this “ancillary” authority only if it demonstrates that its action—here barring Comcast from interfering with its customers’ use of peer-to-peer networking applications—is “reasonably ancillary to the . . . effective performance of its statutorily mandated responsibilities…”

“The Commission has failed to make that showing. It relies principally on several Congressional statements of policy, but under Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit case law statements of policy, by themselves, do not create “statutorily mandated responsibilities.” The Commission also relies on various provisions of the Communications Act that do create such responsibilities, but for a variety of substantive and procedural reasons those provisions cannot support its exercise of ancillary authority over Comcast’s network management practices. We therefore grant Comcast’s petition for review and vacate the challenged order.”

Update: April 7:

The Washington Post has a front page story "Court limits FCC clout over Web; Ruling for Comcast is blow to 'net neutrality' and White House goals", by Cecilia Kang.  Comcast had apparently been targeting BitTorrent use.  As a Comcast user myself, I've noticed that once in a while there are slowdowns in weekdays; this may be related to keeping all customers connected without any disruption. There is a concern, however, that the ruling could hinder Obama administration plans to use telephony funds for rural broadband extension.  The link is here.

The New York Times story is "U.S. Court  curbs F.C.C, authority on web traffic; oversight role defined; Internet companies can control the speed of specific sites," by Edward Wyatt. Internet companies could charge more for services like YouTube or movie streaming later, even though it does not appear that they intend to do so now (outside of BitTorrent and P2P). The link is here.

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