Published On: Wed, Jun 15th, 2016

High-speed internet utility, not luxury: USA court



At the heart of the opposition to the agency’s rules is the ability for the FCC to treat broadband Internet service like a public utility such as electricity or water – something FCC Chairman Wheeler has said the agency would forbear from doing.

In a decision today, however, the Court of Appeals panel of judges backed the FCC and the USA government’s position that broadband is a telecommunications service that must be accessible equally to all citizens and not an optional luxury left to market forces. This very court had twice rejected the FCC’s rules in lawsuits brought by Internet providers. According to an earlier report published on Bloomberg, a Federal court has upheld net-neutrality regulations that allow for equal access to the Internet.

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Jessica Rosenworcel, commissioner for the FCC, praised the court’s ruling on Twitter, writing, “Today’s decision supports internet principles of fairness and openness-the principles that keep us innovative, fierce, and creative”. The court denied all challenges to the new rules, including claims that the FCC could not reclassify mobile broadband as a common carrier. They had voiced concerns that without net neutrality rules, internet providers could charge unfairly high fees for the transmission of data heavy content, or theoretically, throttle access to websites at will.

But the telecoms indicated this isn’t the end of the legal battle. Wyden continues to stand for policies that preserve the Internet as a platform for learning, speech and commerce and a level-playing field for businesses.

This case arose in April 2015, when US Telecom and other trade groups representing internet service providers (ISPs) challenged the FCC’s reclassification of fixed and mobile broadband internet access services as a telecommunications service and its subsequent regulation under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The court ruled that the internet’s place in modern communications and commerce makes it similar to the telephone system of the past.

 Judges David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan, writing for the majority, emphasized the importance of the internet in their ruling, saying, “Over the past two decades, this content has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, from profound actions like choosing a leader, building a career and falling in love to more quotidian ones like hailing a cab and watching a movie”.

In a lengthy dissent, Judge Stephen Williams wrote that the FCC “fails to offer a reasoned basis” for its view that giving preferential treatment to customers who pay for faster service is a problem.

This ruling is great news for web users as net neutrality ensures all internet traffic is treated fairly.

The Court went out of its way to define interconnection as a central part of Net Neutrality, ensuring that providers like Netflix will be able to reach consumers without ISP interference.

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology