A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt a sharp blow to the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to set the rules of the road for the Internet, ruling that the agency lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.
The decision, by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, specifically concerned the efforts of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, to slow down customers’ access to a service called BitTorrent, which is used to exchange large video files, most often pirated copies of movies.
After Comcast’s blocking was exposed, the F.C.C. told Comcast to stop discriminating against BitTorrent traffic and in 2008 issued broader rules for the industry regarding “net neutrality,” the principle that all Internet content should be treated equally by network providers. Comcast challenged the F.C.C.’s authority to issue such rules and argued that its throttling of BitTorrent was necessary to ensure that a few customers didn’t unfairly hog the capacity of the network, slowing down Internet access for all of its customers.
But Tuesday’s court ruling has far larger implications than just the Comcast case.
The ruling would allow Comcast and other Internet service providers to restrict consumers’ ability to access certain kinds of Internet content, such as video sites like Hulu.com or Google’s YouTube service, or charge certain heavy users of their networks more money for access.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Court rules against net neutrality.
From the NY Times: