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View Full Version : US broadband plan (& Net Neutrality) in 'legal limbo' after Fed Court ruling


Netto Azure
April 7th, 2010, 10:30 AM
US broadband plan in 'legal limbo' after court ruling (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8606280.stm)

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/45310000/jpg/_45310281_40922790.jpg
Broadband access is regarded as "long-overdue" in many areas

America's broadband plan is in "legal limbo" and on "life support" claim advocacy groups after a court ruling affecting net neutrality enforcement. The court said the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, had no authority to sanction Comcast for slowing internet traffic to some users.

The decision is regarded as a major blow to government plans to insist all web traffic is treated equally.

Similarly the FCC's broadband plan is seen as being under threat.

"The consequences of this decision are far reaching and has forced the FCC into an existential crisis," said Derek Turner of the Free Press, a nonpartisan organisation that campaigns for universal access to communications.

"I believe it has left the agency unable to protect consumers in the broadband market place and unable to implement the national broadband plan, which is clearly on life support as a result of the court's ruling," he said.

Just last month the FCC sent the plan to Congress. The aim is to provide every American in the country with high speed internet access by 2020.

'Two-tier internet'

The court case was prompted by Comcast's decision in 2007 to selectively slow down certain types of traffic where subscribers were downloading large files using peer-to peer file-sharing services like BitTorrent.

The FCC argued it had authority to police internet service providers, or ISPs, and stop them from blocking or slowing down this internet traffic.

The US ranks 15th in the world for providing access to high-speed internet

While Comcast stopped the practice, it decided to challenge the FCC's decision.

The US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia sided with Comcast and ruled that Congress had not given the FCC the power to regulate an ISP's network management practices.

The advocacy group Public Knowledge said the court's decision means a "two-tier internet" is a distinct possibility.

"Right now the way the internet works, no one gets favoured. Companies don't get to say whose website should load faster, who gets faster email speed or who gets better quality of service. My email to Public Knowledge comes just as fast as Time Warner's does," Gigi B Sohn, president of Public Knowledge told BBC News.

"Now cable and telephone companies have permission to charge you extra for a better quality of service or faster quality. This opens the door to an internet with a fast lane and a slow lane for whoever can pay."

'Free and open internet'

The court ruling now means the FCC has to go back to the drawing board and the agency has said it will look at other alternatives to promote net neutrality.

"The court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open internet, " said FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard.

"Nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end."

Some of those options include asking Congress to grant the agency direct jurisdiction. Another would be to redefine the internet as a telecommunications service which is seen as controversial because it would open the door to regulations that the carriers do not like.

"The FCC's "net neutrality" hopes are nothing more than public utility regulation for broadband," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

" If they get that authority, your online experience will be a little more like dealing with the water company or the electric company and a little less like using the internet."

Network operators have long resisted stricter rules and warned they could stifle investment.

"The internet has thrived in an environment of minimal regulation, " said Verizon chief executive officer Ivan Seidenberg recently.

Comcast has said the company has no intentions of imposing new restrictions and "remains committed" to the FCC's broad goal of an open internet.
I seriously am troubled by this. Now Private companies have the power (as other Western Governments do) to slow down internet access to certain sites and web content.

Here I was being content that at LEAST the US isn't slowing down the Internet like Australia and Britain, but now we have faceless business bureaucrats deciding how much of the internet we're allowed to see.

Now although Comcast has said that they "won't block access" because it's "bad" business. What's to stop them from doing so in the future?

.Gamer
April 7th, 2010, 11:44 AM
"Now cable and telephone companies have permission to charge you extra for a better quality of service or faster quality. This opens the door to an internet with a fast lane and a slow lane for whoever can pay."

=/

So basically, the article is saying that internet access will be like television? Similar to paying more for 'premium' channels you will pay more for faster connection? I might be wrong, but I'm trying to summarize it in laymans terms, so I can understand it.

Netto Azure
April 7th, 2010, 12:33 PM
=/

So basically, the article is saying that internet access will be like television? Similar to paying more for 'premium' channels you will pay more for faster connection? I might be wrong, but I'm trying to summarize it in laymans terms, so I can understand it.

Yes, in a way.

But this applies to certain sites that "use more bandwith" like Youtube and such. And they already do the whole connection speed "packages" for the internet overall, what this ruling basically says is "Private Companies can discriminate the connection speed on individual sites" due to the FCC's Internet regulation powers being cut off.

.Gamer
April 7th, 2010, 02:18 PM
:| Thats really dumb. Using more bandwidth shouldn't make them pay more. (granted, youtube can afford it being owned by google and all) but still.

Melody
April 7th, 2010, 05:08 PM
To be honest, I'm a bit cheesed off at the Federal Court for that ruling, I'm a big fan of net neutrality mainly because otherwise, service providers will start charging way too much for internet access.

The broadband plan I also support, mainly because it'd help pull some of the capacity off of private providers who are complaining about loads caused by heavy internet users. It's not fair to sell someone an "unlimited" connection and then slip in fine print into the contract that says that they reserve the right to throttle you if you browse too much! That's not unlimited, that's false advertisement.

I feel that even if the FCC isn't allowed to demand net neutrality, that the ISPs should not be allowed to advertise an "unlimited" plan that is not truly unlimited.

twocows
April 7th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Prepare for tiered internet. Only $50 a month for access to Wikipedia! Add another $50 and you can get access to popular forum sites! Full internet access available for $5000 a month, excluding questionable material.

.Fenris
April 8th, 2010, 08:15 PM
What now, paying to use a cheese dispenser AND paying for the cheese? I'm not giving them any ideas.
Ooh, how I wish the popular vote decided everyone gets into office...