U.S. Appeals Court Rules in Favor of FCC Net Neutrality Rules

FCCA U.S. appeals court yesterday upheld landmark federal rules preventing internet service providers from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content (via Reuters).

The backing for the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules came in a 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The outcome reaffirms the law enforced last year that says ISPs must treat all internet traffic equally.

The rules prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to faster internet lanes for specific internet services, which the FCC claims will help protect freedom of expression and innovation on the internet.

The court also rejected legal arguments from telecommunications industry groups that the rules should not apply to mobile phone web use or that they violated the constitutional free-speech rights of internet service providers.

The court's decision in favor of the FCC means that it too considered the internet to be a public utility, and therefore subject to government regulations. White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the ruling "a victory for the open, fair, and free internet as we know it today," and one that barred service providers from becoming "paid gatekeepers".

The outcome will also be seen as a personal victory for President Barack Obama, who is a strong advocate of net neutrality rules, although ISPs have already said they plan to appeal to either the full appellate court or the Supreme Court over the ruling. Telecoms industry groups have also said they will continue with efforts to get Congress to limit the FCC's authority.

Netflix and Twitter were among the companies that praised the ruling, while Google and others have backed the rules. Democrats in Congress also lauded the decision to back the FCC rules, which have been in place since June 2015.

However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group accused the FCC of "essentially transforming an entire industry... from an innovative, lightly regulated enterprise that made huge investments into this country, into a public utility subject to the whims of regulators."

South Dakota Republican John Thune, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said the decision upholds FCC restrictions "designed for the monopoly-telephone era" and asked the Republican-led Congress to step in to overturn a decision that results in "a highly political agency micromanaging the internet ecosystem."

US Telecom, the telecommunications industry trade association that led the legal challenge, said the court failed to recognize "the significant legal failings" of the FCC rules that "we believe will replace a consumer-driven internet with a government-run internet, threatening innovation and investment in years to come."

But FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the ruling "a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web" and claimed that it would ensure the internet remained "a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.



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37 months ago
Well, I dunno about you guys in the US, but I'd say that the government regulating any business is the exact opposite of freedom. Be it your local grocery store or your ISP.
Rating: 4 Votes
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37 months ago

[...] or that they violated the constitutional free-speech rights of internet service providers.


Wow, the audacity these scumbags have...

Glassed Silver:mac
Rating: 4 Votes
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37 months ago
That FCC badge looks like an effort from a baked student.
Rating: 3 Votes
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37 months ago

I see what you did there.

Ω I.
Rating: 3 Votes
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37 months ago

Can't stand Net Neutrality. It's OrwellSpeak like Love is Hate or War is Peace. The complete opposite to what it stands for.

Why can't we pay for superior service? I don't want my service slowed to a crawl by scum downloading torrents and pirating. Do we insist that everyone has to travel at the speed of the slowest car? No. We have multiple lanes. Net Neutrality is the Democrats trying to impose socialism on us. They can bugger off.

That's not net neutrality. If you want superior service, you can buy superior service. However, if you or I buy superior service all data regardless of what it is (movie, music, game, etc) or what website it comes from should be delivered at that superior speed.

If I buy 50/10 up/down service, then I get that speed regardless of what the data is or where it is from.
Rating: 3 Votes
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37 months ago

Say goodbye to Internet Access as we're currently enjoying it. By the time the masses wake up itll be far too late.


So tell us, Max, what's it actually about? What have you read about it that makes you so much more informed about its true intentions than the rest of us?

edit: oh hell, you won't reply. You never do. But for the benefit of people who don't assume everything's a conspiracy, and the government is always out to get them, this is the very digest version of how we got to this point.

Up until about 2006, all ISPs were classified under the Title II Communications Act as Communication Services, which had some fairly strict guidelines that had to be followed. Since the internet was primarily a telephone service, and telephone itself had been Title II'd since the 30's, it was only natural it inherited the same classification.

This changed around 2006 or so, when the FCC classified ISPs under the far less strict Information Services guidelines. This gave them a lot more freedom, and did grow the market a bit, but there was always one stipulation: that they had to adhere to net neutrality standards.

This worked just fine up until Netflix hit it big, and they, Verizon, and Comcast got into a big fight over bandwidth, and who owed what to whom for what, and blah blah blah. It eventually lead to Comcast throttling Netflix traffic over their network.

So some other things happened, people got sued, and Verizon (I believe, it's been a bit since I last read about this) took the FCC to court, saying they couldn't enforce net neutrality on them, since they were classified as Information Services. The courts agreed, saying that if the FCC wanted to do that, they'd have to reclassify them as Communications Services again.

...which the FCC did. This, rather amusingly, ended up getting a lot of the other big ISPs and telcos ticked off at Verizon, since their little legal gambit ended up with them pissing in everyone's cereal. Being reclassified put them under those stricter guidelines again. In the meantime, the FCC wrote new guidelines detailing exactly what net neutrality is. Despite the fact it been claimed that it was all done in secret, and blah blah blah, it was actual an open process, with close to a million people, from companies like Google all the way down to web designers, contributing to it. The end result was a, I think, 10 page guideline that can be summed up as "don't **** with the internet".

It can be summed up under the brightlines rules...

No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no "fast lanes." This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.


Now here we are. People are now screaming about government overstepping it's boundaries because the FCC is doing the job it's always done for the last 80 years.
Rating: 2 Votes
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37 months ago

Superficially, it sounds good. The resulting product is yet to be seen. It may end the ISPs interest in improving bandwidth, and just conforming to slow internet.

Would this mean everyone will get the same internet speed, without the option to have higher speeds?

If I could get 50 / 50 mbps for $ 20.00/ month, I would be very happy! :D


If you want to know what the internet will be like governed under net neutrality, just look at the way it is now. It's always been run under the agreement that no one can screw with data streams for arbitrary or selfish reasons. When you pay for the internet, you get access to all the internet, period. You pay more to get a faster connection to it, but you don't pay more to get more.

The alternative would be allowing Comcast to look at something like Netflix and say "hey, this thing's pretty popular, why aren't we making more money off of it", so they slow down the connection speed, then charge you an extra $4.99 a month to get access to their super special internet movie provider line. Or even worse, they permanently throttle Netflix over their network, so they can make their ultra fast by comparison Comcast Internet Movies service more appealing.
Rating: 2 Votes
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37 months ago

So there really isn't a victory yet. The telecoms will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.


Look at the current makeup of SCOTUS: 8 justices, one waiting in the wings, and not even taking into account the POTUS election coming up, if the case were held now, you're looking at a pretty much split decision, making the Appeals court ruling stand..

.. and in regards to the 'constitutional free speech rights for the ISP' comment, it is a very very hard stretch to apply Citizens United as the means to throttle one service for another, and require the people to pay more to have that service unthrottled. There is no 'free speech' justification there.

Either way, even if taken on appeal, SCOTUS won't be hearing the case this season; they'll be lucky to get it 8 - 10 months down the road, putting a new Congress, new administration, and new SCOTUS justice on the bench, changing the landscape for the entire case.

The ISPs are taking the gamble of a coin toss on November 8th, and could potentially find themselves better off with the ruling they have now, than having something worse then.

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Can't stand Net Neutrality. It's OrwellSpeak like Love is Hate or War is Peace. The complete opposite to what it stands for.

Why can't we pay for superior service? I don't want my service slowed to a crawl by scum downloading torrents and pirating. Do we insist that everyone has to travel at the speed of the slowest car? No. We have multiple lanes. Net Neutrality is the Democrats trying to impose socialism on us. They can bugger off.


Your service won't be slowed to a crawl. That's the point of Net Neutrality. You obviously don't understand it, nor what it means to you, the consumer.

BL.
Rating: 2 Votes
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37 months ago

It's almost like apps with in-apps. Yuck.


Kindasorta, yeah.

Though if you want to get into the more economically philosophical aspects of it, ISPs could prioritize their own services over 3rd parties, offering them up for less money, choking out their competition. Large internet services like Amazon and Facebook could do the same, paying for priority over a network, pushing out the little guys.

The way things are right now, where data is data, and ISPs don't concern themselves over what it is or where it came from unless it's effecting network stability, is the way the internet has always been ran, and the way it should always be ran. You get more competition, better quality services, and anyone can come up with the next big thing.
Rating: 2 Votes
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37 months ago

The prince may have won the castle but the merchants can still refuse to keep the route.


Kind of an backwards analogy, considering it's the merchants that most benefit from net neutrality. They can deliver the content straight to your homes without the local dukes demanding a two way toll.
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Why can't we pay for superior service? I don't want my service slowed to a crawl by scum downloading torrents and pirating. Do we insist that everyone has to travel at the speed of the slowest car? No. We have multiple lanes. Net Neutrality is the Democrats trying to impose socialism on us. They can bugger off.


You can pay for superior service. Net neutrality assures that that's all you pay for. If you want a gigabit connection, you pay for it, then get access to everything at up to gigabit speeds. It's the way the internet works now.

Without net neutrality, you'd pay for a gigabit connection, then the ISPs could make you pay extra to access content at gigabit speeds. Like you want to watch Amazon Video? That gigabit connection isn't enough, because that's just for the basic internet service. Comcast throttles people down to 2Mbps if they aren't paying extra for the Comcast Internet Video Line (but Comcast's Movie Service isn't throttled at all on that basic connection...how convenient).

Do you see how this works? You won't be paying more for better. You'll be nickel and dimed to get what you're getting now.

edit: it's funny how everyone brings up the OMG SOCIALISM I LIKE MUH FREEDOMS argument as a kneejerk reaction to net neutrality. The fact is, the internet as it is right now is the most free market in the entire world. If you want to make something, and make money off of it, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from doing so. You could challenge Facebook, and make a billion dollars if you have the right idea. Your only limits are your skills, your talent, and your dedication.

ISPs are merely gateways to the internet. Without net neutrality in place, they'd control their customers access to everything beyond them. You would have to get on bended knee and ask the last mile ISPs if they'd be so kind as to allow your content through their networks to your customers without any restrictions or boundaries.

Is that something you all really want?
Rating: 2 Votes
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