Articles

Appeals Court Rules FCC Can't Impose Net Neutrality

Ruling could impact National Broadband Plan.

by / April 6, 2010

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dealt a serious blow to the FCC's effort to impose network neutrality regulations. In a ruling on April 6, Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote that the FCC failed to show it had the required authority to regulate how Internet service providers manage network traffic.

The ruling is a victory for Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable ISP. In 2008, Comcast had been throttling the broadband speeds of customers who were using BitTorrent file sharing to download large volumes of data. The FCC ordered Comcast to end the practice, which the company did voluntarily. However, Comcast challenged the FCC's authority to require ISPs to give equal treatment to all data transfers. The challenge brought increased attention to the network neutrality debate.

In today's unanimous decision, the court determined no congressional approval existed that granted the FCC the power to enforce network neutrality.

"Because the commission has failed to tie its assertion of ancillary authority over Comcast's Internet service to any 'statutorily mandated responsibility,' we grant the petition for review and vacate the order," the court wrote.

The ruling could also have implications for the FCC's recently announced National Broadband Plan, the implementation of which depended somewhat on the FCC's ability to impose network neutrality regulations on ISPs.

The court's 36-page ruling can be found here.