Court Decision a Setback for FCC, Net Neutrality, Broadband Plan

Lora Bentley

In the ongoing battle between Comcast Communications and the Federal Communications Commission regarding the agency's authority to regulate the Internet, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came down on Comcast's side Tuesday. Reuters reports the court found the FCC does not have statutory authority to tell Internet service providers how to manage traffic on their networks.


From the court's opinion:

[The FCC] 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 court also rejected the commission's argument that several provisions of the Communications Act give it ancillary jurisdiction over an ISP's network-management practices.


The decision certainly puts the kibosh on the commission's proposed rules in their current form, but an FCC statement following the ruling indicated that it will not give up the fight. ABC News quotes the statement this way:

Today's court decision invalidated the prior commission's approach to preserving an open Internet. But the court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet; nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end.

The Open Internet Coalition has already issued its own statement calling on the FCC to clarify its authority to protect the Internet. Executive director Markham Erickson said, in part:

The legal challenge to Title I authority by Comcast has created an outcome where the FCC has no option but to immediately open a proceeding to clarify its authority over broadband network providers under Title II [of the Communications Act].

Interestingly, the ruling may also cast doubt on the FCC's authority to implement the newly released National Broadband Plan.

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