'Network Neutrality' Ruling Gives FCC a Chance to Revise Regulations

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-01-14 Print this article Print

"The FCC—under the leadership of former Chairman Julius Genachowski—made a grave mistake when it failed to ground its open Internet rules on solid legal footing," Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a prepared statement. "Internet users will pay dearly for the previous chairman's lack of political will. That's why we need to fix the problems the agency could have avoided in the first place."

Another advocacy group, Public Knowledge, offered suggestions as to what the FCC could do next. "The Court did uphold broad Commission authority to regulate broadband. To exercise that authority, the FCC must craft open internet protection that are not full-fledged common carrier rules," said Senior Vice President Harold Feld. "Alternatively, if the FCC needs broader authority it can classify broadband as a title 2 common carrier service."

"What happened is that they tried to concoct a flimsy legal argument under Title 1," Karr explained. He said that reclassifying broadband services must be a top option. Free Press, he added, will be working with other advocacy organizations to convince the FCC that the net neutrality regulations need to be rewritten in a way that passes judicial muster.

"If you read this decision, the court lays out a clear roadmap for the FCC to take action, and shows what the FCC got wrong," Karr said. "That path is to read the language of the telecommunications act, and to classify the broadband authority under Title II, which may be common carrier, but gives the FCC more clear authority to regulate Internet."

For its part, Verizon does not appear to be planning a rush to close off parts of the Internet. "One thing is for sure: Today's decision will not change consumers' ability to access and use the Internet as they do now," Milch said in a prepared statement. "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. This will not change in light of the court's decision."

But, of course, there's more to broadband communications than Verizon. While that company may be committed to an open Internet, there's some question as to whether other providers agree with that.

"We are in the Wild West phase of the Internet," Karr said. "ISPs can block and censor content at will." Karr noted that while FCC Chairman Wheeler has the authority to make a declaratory judgment with new net neutrality rules, he said that's unlikely. Karr predicted it will take as long as a year for the FCC to get new rules in place.



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