After much anticipation, the DC Court of Appeals finally issued its decision on Verizon’s appeal of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet order (commonly called net neutrality). While it’s a fair assumption that we can expect a host of “sky is falling” pronouncements from predictable quarters, it’s worth taking a hard look and what the court said and what the decision means for consumers.
What did the Court say?
The court affirmed the authority of the FCC to regulate Internet practices under section 706 of the Act, but held that such authority was not unbounded. Specifically, the panel upheld the FCC’s rules requiring broadband providers to be transparent in detailing their network management practices, but vacated and remanded parts of the Open Internet Order imposing anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules as inconsistent with the Act’s express prohibition against imposing common carrier rules on non-common carrier services.
What’s the effect on consumers?
This is a decision where neither side can claim a full victory and it’s ironic that the big winner coming out of the court’s decision could end up being one person who wasn’t a litigant — the consumer. Why, you may ask?
First, there is a significance of the legal issues involved. Despite that, what is worth remembering is that the court’s opinion has little to no immediate impact on the Internet experience that consumers love, know and enjoy. What this means is that the cable broadband customers will continue to initially enjoy the same fast and open Internet experience they’ve enjoyed over the past decade.
Second, the court recognized the important role that the Commission should play in overseeing a well-functioning Internet marketplace while recognizing that there are appropriate limits to that autority, in upholding the FCC’s authority to promote transparency.
Third, the court removed a major barrier to the continued evolution of diverse business models that may be beneficial in supporting and sustaining the growth of next-generation networks. And why did they do this? Simply because by rejecting part of the FCC’s rule that had initially imposed such rule, they precluded ISPs from offering options for service enhancements.
What happens now?
No one knows – only the time will tell. The parties to the case will review their legal options and best that they can do now is to determine their own best course of action. The cable industry will still strive to maintain its focus in offering consumers reliable Internet offerings and in hoping that the Court’s decision establishes a workable legal framework that will promote continued private investment and the regulatory humility necessary to allow competitive forces in the marketplace to do their thing.
Read complete news on NCTA website.