A federal court on Tuesday overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s network-neutrality regulations, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s effort to ensure the openness of the Internet. The rules were a campaign promise from Obama in 2008 and were the signature achievement of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who stepped down last year. But the three judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Verizon’s lawsuit, saying the FCC acted outside its authority by enacting the rules. We are all used to the government not living up to their promises (remember Obamacare?), but what will this mean for us?
The original FCC order said that wireline ISPs ”shall not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management” while also mandating that ISPs “shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service.” The judges concluded that the FCC was inappropriately treating broadband Internet as a “common carrier” service. Traditional phone lines, railroads, airlines and other services are considered common carriers and must offer service to everyone. But because the FCC chose to classify broadband Internet as an “information service,” it lacks the authority to impose common carrier obligations on it, the court ruled.
Now that a federal appeals court through out those rules in their decision in Verizon vs. FCC, it means that Internet providers could soon start charging websites like Google, Facebook and Netflix in order to reach users/customers. Network operators, such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, have have said that it’s unfair to block traffic, but they argue the FCC should deal with such cases individually. They also believe that the free market and competition will ensure that broadband providers do not prevent consumers from accessing any Internet content.
Verizon issued the following statement today with their win:
“One thing is for sure: Today’s decision will not change consumers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now. The court’s decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet, which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where and how they want. This will not change in light of the court’s decision.
“We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to keep the Internet a hub of innovation without the need for unnecessary new regulations that seek to manage the explosive dynamism of the Internet.” - Randal Milch, Verizon’s executive vice president, public policy, and general counsel