Federal Court Rules In Favor Of Comcast On ‘Net Neutrality’; Internet Expected To Start Sucking


NEW YORK TIMES: A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt a sharp blow to the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to set the rules of the road for the Internet, ruling that the agency lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. The decision, by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, specifically concerned the efforts of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, to slow down customers’ access to a service called BitTorrent, which is used to exchange large video files, most often pirated copies of movies. After Comcast’s blocking was exposed, the F.C.C. told Comcast to stop discriminating against BitTorrent traffic and in 2008 issued broader rules for the industry regarding “net neutrality,” the principle that all Internet content should be treated equally by network providers. Comcast challenged the F.C.C.’s authority to issue such rules and argued that its throttling of BitTorrent was necessary to ensure that a few customers didn’t unfairly hog the capacity of the network, slowing down Internet access for all of its customers. But Tuesday’s court ruling has far larger implications than just the Comcast case. The ruling would allow Comcast and other Internet service providers to restrict consumers’ ability to access certain kinds of Internet content, such as video sites like Hulu.com or Google’s YouTube service, or charge certain heavy users of their networks more money for access. Google, Microsoft and other big producers of Web content have argued that such controls or pricing policies would thwart innovation and customer choice. Consumer advocates said the ruling, one of several that have challenged the F.C.C.’s regulatory reach, could also undermine all of the F.C.C.’s efforts to regulate Internet service providers and establish its authority over the Internet, including its recently released national broadband plan. MORE

EXPLAINER: Imagine that Comcast is the elevator operator in a 20 story building. Some people get on board and say ‘20th floor, please’ and that is where Comcast takes them. Others get on board and say ‘20th floor please’ and are told, ‘Sorry, this elevator doesn’t go that high.’

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