Federal court strikes down FCC's 'Open Internet' rules

The ruling deals a serious blow to net neutrality

Published: January 14, 2014 05:53 PM

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Frustrated consumers could face a slower Web if ISPs throttle services.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today struck down many of the Federal Communication Commission’s 2010 Open Internet rules with its ruling on Verizon v. FCC. The ruling essentially removes the FCC’s authority to compel Internet service providers to treat all traffic on their networks equally. That means service providers such as Verizon, and other telecommunication and cable companies, can block, throttle, or charge more for bandwidth-intensive Internet services such as Netflix, Pandora, and Skype.

Consumer Reports has repeatedly advocated for strong network neutrality rules, arguing that consumers benefit from policies that favor a free and open Internet, and there is no doubt that today's circuit court ruling jeopardizes that freedom.

Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, issued this statement: “The court’s decision strikes a serious blow to a free and open Internet. It leaves consumers at the mercy of a handful of cable and phone providers that can give preferential treatment to the content they profit from. [FCC] Chairman Wheeler needs to take action quickly to keep the Internet accessible and competitive, and Congress should get in the game.” 

The ruling did maintain that the FCC retains regulatory authority over broadband providers to “Enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure.” And for its part, the FCC seems willing to keep fighting this battle. “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment,” said Wheeler, the commission’s new chairman. “We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans."

—Glenn Derene

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