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Court Slaps Down FCC Over Comcast Ruling, Throws Doubt Onto National Broadband Plan

The FCC has been slapped down by federal judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. over its attempts to censure Comcast for slowing down its customers' access to a torrent site. That does not bode well for the government's National Broadband Plan or net neutrality. And, in turn, Comcast's victory today could end up as a pyrrhic victory for the cable company, whose proposed acquisition of NBC-Universal is currently under scrutiny by the FCC.

The ruling relates to a 2008 order from the FCC, after it discovered that Comcast was slowing down the connections of users when they were accessing the sites, in an attempt to crack down on piracy. The cable giant claimed it was doing it to lessen network congestion, saying that the FCC lacked the authority to stop it blocking its customers from file sharing.

But if the FCC lacks the authority, then who has it? Certainly not the cable providers, although today's ruling seems to give them the edge over the government. The commission was given the nod under the Bush administration, but today's decision could allow the cable providers to restrict access to streaming sites such as Hulu and YouTube—and it certainly paves the way for pricing based on individual customers' download habits. An attorney who defended FCC said that the federal court's decision "represents a severe limitation on the agency's future authority."

Last month, the commission published its plans for Internet reform, which had massive support from the likes of Google and Microsoft, who see net neutrality as essential for progress and customer choice. And then, last night, dreamy liberal pin-up Glenn Beck (er, are you sure? Ed) weighed in on the whole debate, labeling anyone behind the idea of a free Internet as, basically, a Marxist. And he did all of this with his hand up a Mao puppet's bottom. Sadly, history does not record for posterity the Mao puppet's reaction when Beck finally disengaged himself from it.

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  • Brian King

    @Yugo - so are you saying that you are okay with the idea of throttling download speeds based on the type of content that is sent/received? What about the amount of data sent and received per month? What is the difference if someone is trying to send and receive streaming video over someone that needs to download the same throughput of PDF files for work or a photographer that sends gigabytes of RAW files over networks per month, they are all paying for a particular service. You fail to mention if you are speaking in regards to throttling of speed overall, throttling based on content type, or just plain throughput limits... would like to hear from more people as well as a response from you.

  • Yugo Cherov

    Seriously? "weighed in on the whole debate, labeling anyone behind the idea of a free Internet as, basically, a Marxist"

    Do you even have any idea of the regulations that the FCC wants to place on the net? Obviously, you have a complete bias for 'Net Neutrality' with no knowledge of what it actually means in past attempts at legislation.

    I do believe Comcast should not block access to anything, but they should be allowed to limit download speeds. If a customer wants faster downloads (aka utilize more bandwidth) then they should pay for it. As much as I hate Time Warner, they have the right idea of allowing consumers to pay more to get much higher speeds.

    Besides, cell phone plans already have limits on usage for talk, messaging and data, are you vehemently opposed to that as well? Why shouldn't cable companies be allowed to cap usage?

    I am open to net neutrality, but certainly not in the ways it has been attempted before. And sadly, Glenn Beck is right on this one (in one sense), there needs to be legislation establishing the powers of the FCC to regulate the Internet.