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D.C. Circuit Rules Against FCC in Net Neutrality Case

Posted Apr 6, 2010 10:49 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has ruled for Comcast in a lawsuit challenging the government’s authority to require so-called “net neutrality.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Federal Communications Commission does not have authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic on their networks, the Associated Press reports.

The court ruled after Comcast had appealed an FCC sanction for interfering with high-bandwidth peer-to-peer traffic. A story published last year by Online Media Daily explained Comcast's position.

The FCC had contended it had authority to regulate Comcast’s network management practices under a Communications Act provision giving the agency authority to execute its functions. The appeals court disagreed.

"The exercise of delegated powers is not the equivalent of untrammeled freedom to regulate activities over which the statute fails to confer ... commission authority," the court said, citing a prior opinion.

The AP story says the ruling is a big loss for the FCC as it tries to set net neutrality regulations for companies that control Internet access. The ruling could also hurt the agency’s plan to expand broadband access, the story says.

The Washington Post's Post Tech blog also saw trouble ahead for the FCC's efforts. "The agency will be faced with a steep legal challenge going forward as it attempts to convert itself from a broadcast-and phone-era agency into one that draws new rules for the Internet era," the blog says.

Hat tip to How Appealing, which posted the ruling (PDF).

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