How the FCC screwed up its chance to make ISP blocking illegal

Today’s court ruling invalidating the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules in the Federal Communication Commission’s Open Internet Order was not a surprise to observers who were aware of one inconvenient fact—the FCC really screwed this one up. The commission’s intent was noble. Its order laid down network neutrality rules making it illegal for Internet service providers to block services or charge content providers for access to end users. For example, the order would prevent Verizon from giving Netflix a faster path to consumers in exchange for payment. It would also prevent Verizon or similar companies from blocking rival telephone or video services that compete against their own offerings.

Verizon challenged the order and got a big victory today in a ruling (PDF) by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The FCC’s problem was that several years before its 2010 Open Internet Order, it classified ISPs as information services instead of telecommunications services, exempting them from common carrier rules. As Ars wrote in 2010, the common carriage part of US communications law is “the one that said public networks like the telephone must be open to all comers at the same rate and could not discriminate. Even though the old AT&T ran a private network, the company had to complete everyone’s calls; blocking critics from using the network was illegal.”

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

via Ars Technica


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