A ruling against “Net neutrality”

Chalk one up for big business. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission lacks authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. The ruling puts the brakes on calls for "network neutrality" or “Internet neutrality,” which would have assured a level playing field for anyone online.

Comcast Corp., America’s largest cable company, challenged the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband providers. The company in 2007 acted to prevent its customers from using an online file-sharing service called BitTorrent that enabled the trading of movies and other large files. The FCC in 2008 banned Comcast from blocking its customers.

Comcast challenged the ruling, arguing that the FCC order was illegal because the policy principles it was enforcing lacked the force of law or regulations. Comcast also said the FCC lacks authority to mandate network neutrality because it had deregulated broadband under the Bush administration. The Supreme Court upheld that decision in 2005.

Broadband providers, including Comcast, AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications say that after investing billions of dollars in their networks they should permitted to sell premium services and be able to manage their networks to better control applications that use large amounts of bandwidth. They argue that the free marketplace should be allowed to set pricing for services provided.

It’s too soon to know what the ruling will mean for Internet users in the long run. Will there be metered services, passing the bandwidth cost to the end user? Will Internet service providers like Comcast block certain bandwidth-hogging services, such as those that compete with their business?

Stay tuned.

For more on the ruling see these stories:

— Associated Press
FCC loses key ruling on Internet `neutrality’ (http://bit.ly/cGZjxw)

— The Huffington Post
US Court Rules against FCC on Net neutrality in big win for Comcast (http://huff.to/dihygg)

— Wired
Court drives FCC towards nuclear option to regulate broadband (http://bit.ly/9P8u2K)

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