Network Neutrality Struck Down by U.S. Court

The court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no jurisdiction over Comcast’s practices in providing Internet service.

By Cliff Roth

Page 1 of 1
Video/Imaging DesignWire
(4/6/2010 4:06:47 PM)

In a significant legal blow to the concept of network neutrality, a U.S. Appeals Court has sided with Comcast, the largest cable television operator in the United States, in a ruling that says Comcast can prioritize Internet traffic over its networks however it sees fit. Specifically, the court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no jurisdiction over Comcast’s practices in providing Internet service.

While the ruling is specific to Comcast’s efforts to limit peer to peer traffic involving BitTorrent video files (see article in CED magazine for more complete details on the ruling), it may ultimately lead to a far different future vision of the Internet, at least for home use, than exists today.

Since most U.S. consumers get Internet service through just a handful of major carriers — including Comcast, Time-Warner cable-TV and telephone carriers such as Verizon — and since these carriers are also major content providers, the widespread fear is that they will restructure consumer Internet services to favor their own content ahead of competitors.

Ultimately, these carriers may be free to not just slow down Internet traffic they don’t like or approve of, but they may be able to censor it outright. Of course, consumers would be free to sign up with a different carrier if they don’t like the censorship or prioritization scheme, but in many parts of the United States broadband access is limited to just one or two available carriers.

The ruling may also throw into jeopardy the broadband access initiative started by President Obama to increase these choices, especially in rural areas.



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