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.