As Expected, Court Strikes Down FCC's Net Neutrality Rules: Now What?

from the not-the-end-of-the-world dept

Almost everyone I've spoken to (on both sides of the net neutrality debate) more or less expected the ruling that came down this morning in the DC circuit, in which the appeals court struck down the FCC's net neutrality rules because the the FCC had no mandate under the rules it used to issue that ruling. Basically, this is exactly what lots of us said at the start of this whole process. I've seen a bunch of reports overreacting to this today, from people saying that it's "the death of the internet." It's not. There are problems on both sides here. The telcos absolutely do want to abuse things to effectively double charge both sides. And that could clearly create significant issues with the basic end-to-end nature of the internet.

However, on the flip side, we should be equally concerned about the FCC overstepping its bounds and mandate in regulating the internet. Because that opens up the opportunity for the FCC to regulate all sorts of aspects of the internet in dangerous ways. So, this ruling is both good and bad. It stops the FCC from overstepping its bounds... but opens up the opportunity for the telcos to sweep in and try to upset the basic concepts of the internet. It's what happens now that becomes interesting. The court does leave open the possibility that the FCC could use other aspects of its mandate to establish net neutrality rules -- where it has a much more firm legal footing. In other words, the court is telling the FCC basically: you can establish net neutrality rules if you do it correctly.

Separate from that, it's possible that Congress could step in as well -- though the issue of net neutrality in Congress has become partisan, and thus toxic. Of course, in the meantime, it seems likely that the FCC will appeal to the Supreme Court, and there's a decent chance that the Supreme Court will take the case -- though I'd be very, very surprised if the Supreme Court came to a different ruling. The original FCC rule, while well intentioned, definitely stretched the FCC's mandate, and it's no surprise that it's now been slapped down.

Filed Under: broadband, congress, fcc, mandate, net neutrality
Companies: verizon


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  1. identicon
    Pragmatic, 15 Jan 2014 @ 5:22am

    Re: The logic of the FCC's rules struck down being bad sounds very familiar

    That's because the government-haters are an irrational bunch who would rather have a government that doesn't work than a government that does so they can make a case for getting rid of it altogether. That's where all the horse-hockey about the free market comes in; they assume that the private sector and public-minded individuals will sort things out, e.g. "The people will build it."

    However, they never say how or what with.

    The truth is, the far right have been using the Big L's for a long time, feeding them the lie that they're all about small government. They're not, as the latest slew of legislation has proved.

    Can we all please stop pretending that principles trump common sense and the needs of the people? We need some government, enough to protect us from the tyranny of the strong. This needs to be paid for by taxes, not via service charges per individual, as this means that justice, etc., would only be available to the richest among us, and of course it would open up the system to all kinds of abuses. Some of you may have noticed this is happening now.

    We need governance. The private sector can't and won't deliver that because private individuals and groups act in the best interest of themselves or their particular group, and according to their principles, not for the greater good. They're not neutral, is what I'm saying, and the service providers have got to be neutral or the conditions attached to accessing those services may restrict the people who need them most from receiving them.

    Therefore we need government.

    Have you ever noticed that whenever the small government types get into office, they get rid of the programs we need and replace them with the programs they want?

    I see nothing wrong with municipal broadband and other valuable services as long as private sector service providers are allowed to compete with them. We need net neutrality now and in case you haven't noticed, no private sector provider is providing it. At this point, I'd welcome government regulation that makes them treat us fairly and allow competition instead of locking up the market and pretending that "Take it or leave it" is a choice.

    /End rant.

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