Court Rules Against FCC Net Neutrality
January 14, 2014

Court Sides With Verizon Against FCC’s Net Neutrality

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A Washington appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commissions’s (FCC) net neutrality rules are invalid. The court’s decision could affect the future of the Internet. With the FCC’s net neutrality laws in place, Internet Service Providers (ISP) are unable to discriminate how and what content a user wishes to access. However, without this accountability, ISPs will able to make sites like Hulu slower than other sites like YouTube.

With no boundaries in place, Comcast will now be able to take advantage of competitive sites like Netflix or Hulu, which like Comcast’s Xfinity offer online video streaming services. Comcast will now be able to make sites like YouTube load videos faster than competitive sites that might offer paid video subscriptions.

"We're disappointed that the court came to this conclusion," Craig Aaron, president and CEO of digital rights group Free Press, said in a statement. “Its ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies—and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will.”

Verizon was the company challenging the FCC’s net neutrality rules, hoping the appeals court would allow it and other companies to be able to freely manage traffic however they see fit. Although the FCC lost this battle, the commission could rewrite the rules in a way that would help it pass the court test.

Verizon said it wanted the FCC to change its rules because it would charge bandwidth hogs more since they take up more of its networks. The court determined that the FCC did not have the authority to set up these blockages because it didn’t classify broadband providers as a common-service carrier. Instead, ISPs were considered information service providers, which is a classification that applies to telephone lines.

The FCC could try to reclassify broadband providers in order to get a court to rule in its favor.

"We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.

The court did preserve the FCC’s power to require Verizon and other broadband services to disclose their activities by telling everyone how they are managing traffic.

“Verizon does argue that the disclosure rules are not severable, insisting that if the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules fall so too must the disclosure requirements. We disagree [...] we are satisfied that the Commission would have adopted the disclosure rules absent the rules we now vacate, which, we agree, operate independently,” the court wrote in the ruling.

The ruling could also negatively affect smaller, up-and-coming companies attempting to compete with big players like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Xfinity. Essentially, the companies with the most money could be paying for an 'express lane' that allows for faster Internet connections.

Verizon said that the court’s decision would not result in significant change, and would not affect its customers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now.

"The court’s decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want," the company said in a statement

“We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to keep the Internet a hub of innovation without the need for unnecessary new regulations that seek to manage the explosive dynamism of the Internet.”