I’m mentioned the regulatory farce that is Net Neutrality here and here. The real issue underlying it is the ability of the government to regulate access to and content on the internet, and probably to tax it as well.
Jim Harper at the Cato Institute relates the details leading up to the ruling:
In the fall of 2007, word emerged that Comcast had degraded the Internet traffic of some customers, whose use of a protocol called BitTorrent interfered with other Comcast customers’ Internet access.
Comcast handled it badly, and sites like TechLiberationFront covered the “Comcast Kerfuffle” extensively. Consumers prefer unfiltered access to the Internet.
By springtime, Comcast had sorted things out and made a deal with BitTorrent to develop a neutral traffic-management protocol.
Four months later, the FCC weighed in, finding that Comcast had acted badly and telling Comcast not to do that again. Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded that the FCC exceeded its authority and reversed the FCC’s order against Comcast.
The court’s decision marks another turning point in the debate over whether the federal government should regulate Internet access services. What’s entertaining about it is that the problem was solved two years ago by market processes—sophisticated Internet users, a watchdog press, advocacy groups, and interested consumers communicating with one another over the Internet.
So what we had here was a power grab by the FCC in an effort to fix a problem that had already been fixed by the free market years ago.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals slapped the FCC today by ruling in Comcast v. FCC that the regulatory body overstepped its legal bounds when it tried to regulate Internet management practices. This precludes Net Neutrality regulation, which is at heart regulation of how ISPs manage their networks.
I’m no lawyer, but having lost decisively at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals seems to set a dangerous precedent for the FCC’s future ability to regulate ISPs. That is why the FCC has a plan: reclassify (or deem) ISPs to be something different under the law (make them a Title II service under the Communications Act, which former Chairman Michael Powell says they never, ever have been), and then reassert (or pass) this authority regardless of what the court said.
I seriously doubt this is the end of this net neutrality push. I can see efforts to push legislation through congress, or possibly even an executive order. The left is eager to turn any and all conveniences into government-provided “rights,” and is just as eager to tax and restrict content on the internet, which provides a free venue outside of its control.