Friday, January 17, 2014

Internet-Freedom Advocates: Appeals Court Strikes "Huge Blow"

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

 PHILADELPHIA – It's being called a huge blow to all Internet users. 

A federal court ruled this week in favor of Verizon, striking down Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules that regulate the Web.

The ruling means broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast could charge Netflix, ESPN and other content providers higher prices for faster download speeds, creating Internet fast lanes.

Josh Levy, Internet campaign director for the watchdog group Free Press, says in its court arguments in the case against the FCC, Verizon revealed a broader goal.

"It actually said that it has the right to treat the Internet as a newspaper, and it would be the editor of that newspaper,” he points out. “And it would have the right to block or not block whatever content flows over its pipes."

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which has opposed net neutrality, issued a statement saying the company has consistently supported the Commission's Open Internet Order as an appropriate balance of protection of consumer interests while not interfering with companies' network management and engineering decisions.

The FCC's new chairman, Tom Wheeler, says the agency might appeal the ruling.

"We think this is a huge blow to all Internet users, who can now expect Internet service providers to block any content on the Internet, at will,” Levy says of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “And right now, there's no cop on the beat that will be able to stop them from doing so."

The court acknowledged that the FCC has the authority "to promulgate rules governing broadband providers' treatment of Internet traffic."

Levy maintains this gives the agency a chance to rewrite the provisions.

"They were struck down because they weren't passed in the right way,” he contends. “And so, what we need is for the FCC to pass strong protections for Internet users in the right way."

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