The Corporate Law Group

Net Neutrality

A federal appeals court has struck down important segments of the FCC’s net neutrality rules saying that the FCC cannot require internet service providers to treat all traffic equally. The DC Circuit ruled in Verizon v. FCC, that carriers can make some traffic run faster or block other services, and have to tell subscribers they are doing so, but vacated the FCC’s 2010 anti-discrimination and anti-blocking policies. A century ago the law created the concept of a “common carrier” which meant a public service that allowed all to ride for similar fares (possibly in different fare classes, however). As with all things legal this concept was left unmolested by modernity for several decades. The Internet has never been characterized as a common carrier, however, and wasn’t subject to the same rules. The FCC tried to treat it as if it were. As you know, we love markets and hate prosperity-crippling regulation, so we think the decision’s outcome will mean innovation and creativity rather than the one-size-fits-all that is the boscage of any national mandate. In the ruling, Judge David Tatel said, “Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.” FCC chair Tom Wheeler said the regulators will continue the fight. (Sigh) Verizon said that the FCC could no longer, “Impose last century’s common carriage requirements on the internet,” insisting that service will only get better. We agree.

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