WASHINGTON, April 12, 2010 – Players in the telecommunications industry were elated last Tuesday as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to regulate broadband service under the principles promulgated in the Commission’s Internet Policy Statement.
The ruling, which Comcast sought following the FCC’s imposition of sanctions on the cable provider when activists revealed the company was blocking subscribers’ use of BitTorrent file sharing services, after Comcast had denied engaging in any such behavior.
Comcast responded by challenging the agency’s authority to regulate broadband services in the first place, alleging the Commission’s “ancillary jurisdiction” did not allow it to extend its’ authority around cable modem service.
Industry groups representing both the cable and wireless broadband industry expressed relief at the Court’s ruling. Steve Largent, president and CEO of wireless association CTIA said in a statement that the Court’s “unanimous and very thorough opinion” clarifies that the FCC has no authority to regulate broadband.
Instead, the Commission should focus on implementing its’ national broadband plan by “spurring investment, innovation, and job growth, and to turn away from calls to impose restrictive regulations on the Internet ecosystem.” Largent added that “it is time to turn away from murky regulatory debates and focus on connecting all Americans and leading the world in broadband."
Cable industry groups were similarly elated, as National Cable and Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow said the Court correctly ruled “a specific order by the previous FCC was wrong.” But nothing would change about the cable industry’s “longstanding commitment to provide consumers the best broadband experience,” McSlarrow said.
McSlarrow made clear he was not adverse to working towards a solution to network management issues in the future. “We continue to embrace a free and open Internet as the right policy and will continue to work with the Commission and other policymakers and stakeholders to find a sound way of preserving that goal,” he said.
Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said that the company was “gratified by the court’s devision to vacate the previous FCC’s order.” “We will continue to work constructively with this FCC as it determines how best to increase broadband adoption and preserve an open and vibrant Internet,” Fitzmaurice said.