Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Understanding the appeals court decision on net neutrality

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted "strong, sustainable rules to protect the open internet" (Word).   According the release announcing the rules, the FCC's Open Internet Order would
ban practices that are known to harm the Open Internet:
  • 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. The bright-line rules against blocking and throttling will prohibit harmful practices that target specific applications or classes of applications. And the ban on paid prioritization ensures that there will be no fast lanes.

Naturally, ISPs opposed the rules and challenged the FCC.   The Hollywood Reporter explains in Appeals Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules the challenge: it was about the FCC's classification of the internet as a utility.

The New York Times explains that equal access to the internet is an essential service to life in the 21st century, just like electricity is essential.   (see Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury)

FCC commissioner statements are in the FCC newsroom.   Read the 184-page decision on United States Telecom Assoc. v. FCC (PDF).

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