Just last week, Comcast won its federal lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission, reversing an FCC order that would have prevented Comcast from intentionally slowing traffic from BitTorrent, a file sharing site often used for video. The ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a setback for the FCC’s defense of net neutrality, a principle that states that both content and types of communications on the web should remain unrestricted. It was bad timing for the FCC, which is currently pushing the popular (so far) National Broadband Plan.
At first glance, it appears that the worst fears of net neutrality proponents are one step closer to realization. If the FCC truly lacks the authority to tell telecommunication companies that they cannot discriminate against certain types of traffic, companies like Comcast could effectively block people’s access to particular web services. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was more optimistic, issuing this statement:
“The court decision earlier this week does not change our broadband policy goals, or the ultimate authority of the FCC to act to achieve those goals. The court did not question the FCC’s goals; it merely invalidated one technical, legal mechanism for broadband policy chosen by prior Commissions.”
Time will tell whether the decision proves to substantially limit the FCC’s general authority over the industry. To be sure, the FCC lost a significant battle, but this war is far from over.