Former FCC Chairman Warns Against Network Neutrality Challenge

Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell says the court was right in its April 6 decision that Congress has given never the FCC authority to regulate broadband networks.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell warned network neutrality advocates not to overstep in response to an April 6 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit throwing out the FCC's move to regulate Comcast's online network management practices.

"The court's recent ruling that the Federal Communications Commission did not properly exercise its authority when it attempted to enforce its net neutrality policy against Comcast opens the door to a much wider-ranging discussion about the appropriate role of the FCC over the Internet. I hope the FCC will use the ruling as a jumping-off point to do just that," Powell wrote on the Broadband for America blog.

Powell serves as honorary co-chairman of Broadband for America, the members of which include major broadband providers such as Comcast and Verizon.

"Contrary to the dire warnings of some, the sky will not fall in the wake of the court's decision. Well before the presidential election and the FCC's new commitment to draft net neutrality rules, the broadband provider community had committed themselves to open Internet principles and were running their business consistent with their consumers' wishes for access to content and applications of their choosing, as well as the freedom to connect Internet devices to their connections," Powell wrote.

The court ruled April 6 that the FCC "has failed to tie its assertion" of regulatory authority to any actual law enacted by Congress and the agency does not have the authority to regulate ISPs' network management practices. Congress had repeatedly declined to give the FCC the authority to enforce its network neutrality principles.

"We must decide whether the Federal Communications Commission has authority to regulate an Internet service provider's network management practices," Judge David Tatel wrote in his 36-page opinion. "The Commission may exercise this 'ancillary' authority only if it demonstrates that its action-here barring Comcast from interfering with its customers' use of peer-to-peer networking applications-is 'reasonably ancillary to the ... effective performance of its statutorily mandated responsibilities.'"