Court questions FCC's net neutrality authority
Considering request by Comcast to vacate fine, sanctionsDENVER -- The issue of net neutrality is expected to take up a good deal of debate in 2010, and the first salvos of the year have already been fired. During a Friday hearing, judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia questioned whether the FCC has the authority to set net neutrality rules beyond merely suggesting guidelines.
The court is currently considering a request by Comcast to vacate a fine and other sanctions the FCC imposed on Comcast last year for intentionally delaying BitTorrent-related traffic over its networks. Its comments suggest that it might be leaning in favor of the ISP over the FCC.
It's an important case to follow, as a Comcast victory would essentially render any net neutrality regulations proposed by the FCC moot, and would then transfer the net neutrality debate back to Congress.
The FCC last year issued a notice of proposed rule-making on the issue, and is seeking public comment on the matter. Meanwhile, the Future of Music Coalition -- which is a strong supporter of net neutrality regulation -- introduced an online comments tool that allows artists and other music industry members to file comments with the FCC as it considers its net neutrality rulemaking process.
Much of what the music industry wants from ISPs -- such as filtering P2P content and imposing a music levy -- depends on how much freedom ISPs have to manage their networks. Strict net neutrality regulation (or legislation) could hinder those efforts.