Will The FCC Refuse To Take No For An Answer?


Yesterday, a federal appeals court told the FCC that it had no power to regulate broadband traffic management practices, putting the kibosh on its Net neutrality plans. That leaves the agency with three basic options: Petition Congress for explicit authority to enforce neutrality regulations, attempt a regulatory reshuffling by reclassifying ISPs as Title II telecommunications services (which are more easily regulated) rather than Title I information services, or give up the Net neutrality project entirely. We're already seeing signs that the agency may choose the second route. From The Hill:

"This is a history-making decision. It appears to vacate the authority of the FCC to conduct oversight over broadband service and the telephone and cable giants that own the wires," [Sen. John] Kerry, the chairman of the Commerce Committee, said of the court's 3-0 decision in favor of Comcast.

"I am not advocating that the FCC reclassify broadband services as a result of this decision, but I absolutely believe they maintain that legal authority and it would be entirely consistent with the history of communications law in our country if they did," he said.

The FCC has already hinted it is considering such a change in its rules, stressing in a statement released earlier Tuesday that the court's 3-0 decision in favor of Comcast "did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end."

The agency's Democratic commissioners seem to be in favor of the change:

Democrats on the Federal Communications Commission say the federal court's decision regarding Comcast has renewed their resolve to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service in order to enact net neutrality regulations.

"The only way the Commission can make lemonade out of this lemon of a decision is to do now what should have been done years ago: treat broadband as the telecommunications service that it is," said Michael J. Copps, the senior Democratic member of the panel. "We should straighten this broadband classification mess out before the first day of summer."

Similarly, Mignon Clyburn said the court's decision "does not change the importance of our goal."

Time for Regulatory World War III then?

More from Reason on Net neutrality here, here, and here. Reason.tv takes on Net neutrality below: