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FCC Asks Court to Uphold Neutrality Rules

19 Sep, 2012 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked a federal appeals court to uphold its net neutrality order last week, saying that Verizon’s challenge to the commission’s rules has no merit.

Verizon and MetroPCS, which joined in Verizon’s brief, argue that the Court of Appeals already ruled in a case involving Comcast that the FCC lacks authority to regulate broadband – mainly because the FCC classified broadband as an “information” service and not a telecommunications service. But in the filing, the FCC said it acted within its legal authority to implement the net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking legitimate websites.

The neutrality rules passed by the FCC in 2010 prohibit all broadband providers – with wire and wireless – from blocking sites or competing applications. The regulations, which took effect last year, also ban providers with wires from engaging in unreasonable discrimination.

The FCC has argued that net neutrality is critical for protecting an open Internet that would avoid pay-for-play situations. The FCC says the rules are needed to prevent ISPs from blocking sites or applications. “The record before the Commission showed multiple incidents of broadband providers interfering with their customers’ ability to use Internet services, from file sharing services to Internet–based telephony. A service provider could prevent an end user from accessing Netflix, or the New York Times, or even this court’s own website, unless the website paid the provider to allow customer access,” the FCC says in a statement.

In court papers, the Commission adds, “New net neutrality rules will advance broadband investment and ensure that wireless licensees act in the public interest.”

The Commission contends further that broadband providers have incentives to prevent customers from accessing sites. “The law does not demand the commission to wait until harm has already occurred,” the government argues.

The FCC also contends it’s empowered to issue neutrality rules on the grounds that it can craft regulations to prohibit cable companies from engaging in unfair competition. The agency argues that the neutrality rules will prevent cable companies (which also provide broadband service) from unfairly stifling online video startups.

“Internet–based distribution is becoming essential to the success of video distributors,” the FCC says. “Cable companies have both the incentive and ability to interfere with competition from these new rivals.”

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