Earlier today, a US Appeals Court struck down the latest effort by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce net neutrality, the requirement that internet providers treat all traffic the same. The Court ruled that the FCC did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit by Verizon.
Internet and communications experts at AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology (CICT) Policy have been following the lawsuit closely, and are available to comment on today’s decision:
Jeffrey Eisenach, Director of AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy (CICT) and Editor of TechPolicyDaily.com:
While the Court’s discussion of Internet economics leaves much to be desired, its ultimate conclusion — which leaves in place the freedom to innovate which has applied to the Internet since its inception – is good for consumers, for innovation and for economic growth. It is clear that we still have a lot of work to do explaining the economics of competition in high-tech industries to the DC Circuit.
Richard Bennett, AEI Visiting Fellow:
Congress has given the FCC a very specific range of powers, and randomly applying “feel good” regulations to the Internet isn’t among them. America’s Internet access providers have done an outstanding job of bringing high speed, affordable service to the vast expanse of our nation, so this order never made any sense.
Roslyn Layton, Visiting Fellow at AEI’s CICT:
Today the court upheld that FCC does not have the authority to regulate the internet. This is the second time the DC Circuit Court has needed to remind the FCC that it’s the American people through Congress, not a federal agency, that should have the power to regulate the internet. Congressional rules on net neutrality have consistently failed. Net neutrality is not an important issue for most Americans.
It sends a great signal to the rest of the world that internet ecosystem is alive and well. We don’t need government meddling. The market and consumers are sorting things out.
Daniel Lyons, Visiting Fellow at AEI’s CICT:
Today’s decision opens the door for innovation throughout the Internet ecosystem, including by broadband providers. Although the Court found that the Commission has limited authority to regulate broadband networks under Title I, this authority flows from Congress and cannot create new obligations that contradict Congress’s explicit statutory directives.
Bret Swanson, Visiting Fellow at AEI’s CICT:
The court’s basic finding is correct and good for the Internet economy. Common carriage style regulation is not appropriate for the Internet. The Internet is a fast changing, multipurpose network, built and operated by numerous firms, with many types of data, content, products, and services flowing over it, all competing and cooperating in a healthy and dynamic environment. Old telephone style regulation, meant to regulate a monopoly utility that used a single purpose network to deliver one type of service, would have been a huge (and possibly catastrophic) step backward for what is today a vibrant Internet economy.
Babette Boliek, Visiting Fellow at AEI’s CICT:
Today’s decision marks a win for both consumers and democratic principles. Consumers win because investment and innovation at all levels of the Internet ecosystem are now possible. More importantly, the court affirmed democratic principles by limiting FCC authority to the statutory powers Congress gave it.
Gus Hurwitz, Visiting Fellow at AEI’s CICT:
This is a good outcome, one that ultimately benefits consumers. ISPs should be able to work with content & application providers to develop new and innovative ways to deliver content to consumers, to develop pricing models that increase access (especially lower-cost and mobile access) to Internet-based content and services, and to recover costs that individual services may disproportionately impose on their networks. These are all wins for consumers that were prohibited by the non-discrimination rule. And both the FCC and other agencies continue to have the power to go after firms that use this power, or that block services outright, for purposes that harm consumers. A lot of questions remain: will the FCC appeal; how would this case fare before an en banc DC Circuit; what does this mean for the future of Common Carriage; will Congress intervene; how will it affect ongoing discussions about reforming the Communications Act? But for today at least, we can rest easy knowing that the DC Circuit reached the right decision for consumers.
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