The Bottom Line: Court Decision on Comcast Vs FCC

Broadband Plan Commentary, Broadband's Impact, Expert Opinion, National Broadband Plan, Net Neutrality April 10th, 2010

, Expert Opinion,

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 4:  Comcast Chairman...
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In a decision awaited by many since the FCC’s 2008 admonishment of Comcast’s throttling of file sharing sites, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled to vacate the FCC’s order.

The courts seemed to be following the letter of law when making its decision to vacate. See (D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ Comcast/BitTorrent Decision is Out) In essence, the court, in a unanimous decision implied the FCC showed no statutory link under its Title I ancillary authority to mandate that Comcast not throttle file sharing in what has become an ISP network management issue based on Net Neutrality. It did not link that authority under current oversight powers, which currently does not include the Internet, to govern the issue, and remains that simple. Comcast on the other hand is right, under current law, to challenge the FCC. The question remains, how does this affect both Comcast and the FCC going forward?

Comcast Statement:

“We are gratified by the Court’s decision today to vacate the previous FCC’s order.  Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation. We have always been focused on serving our customers and delivering the quality open-Internet experience consumers want.   Comcast remains committed to the FCC’s existing open Internet principles, and 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.”

FCC Statement:

“The court decision earlier this week does not change our broadband policy goals, nor the ultimate authority of the FCC to act to achieve those goals”

Bottom Line:

The FCC must decide whether it will ask Congress for authority to regulate the Internet as a common carrier, as Net Neutrality proponents have suggested, or move to reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications service, under which it already has authority to govern. As a governing body, comfortable in mandating what telecommunications providers can do with respect to public practices; it now will have to go back to the drawing board to include the Internet. It clearly overstepped its boundaries in the Comcast issue, and without a clear legislative definition of its authority, will face future court dates with any further mandates, at least concerning the Internet.

In addition, Comcast must have the uncomfortable feeling that while it many have won this battle, which it was entitled too, it may lose the inevitable war. How will the long range implications of a pending NBCU merger and the future of a growing and increasingly profitable Internet business be affected, not only for itself, but all other Internet providers as well? It is still too early to imply in a surely heated battle of control forecast to come.

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2 Responses to “The Bottom Line: Court Decision on Comcast Vs FCC”

  1. Don Janke Says:

    The core business of cable operators is delivery of “real time video” (cable channels).

    Cable ops are not really against websites; but against allowing current cable channels to stream their channels of content direct to the consumer; thereby bypassing the “gateway” collector cable operator. This has been an age old argument since the early eighties! Should cable TV channels be “bundled” or “a la carte”?

    I was the founder and president of Internet Ventures; who in 1999 petitioned the FCC for a Declaratory Ruling whether ISPs should be allowed “open access” to cable under the “leased access” rules.

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