In a battle that's been ongoing since the fall of 2007, Comcast just won the latest round against the Federal Communications Commission. A federal appeals court announced its decision this morning to grant ComCast a petition for review, vacating the order by the FCC, which imposed a "net neutrality" on the nation's largest cable company.
The decision appears to focus on the FCC's legal authority to enforce net neutrality and not on the legality of net neutrality itself.
The case began when "several subscribers to Comcast's high-speed Internet service discovered that the company was interfering with their use of peer-to-peer networking applications," the decision reads. Comcast argued that its move to block p2p file-sharing was "necessary to manage scarce network capacity", but the FCC found differently, ruling that the company had "significantly impeded consumers' ability to access the content and use the applications of their choice".
When we last looked at this issue, the FCC had ruled against ComCast, enforcing a key tenet in the Net Neutrality debate - that ISPs have an obligation to serve up content regardless of type or method of delivery. The ISP should not have the power to discriminate according to source, destination or other such factors. Until now, the FCC's decision had backed this, but now the appeals court has ruled that the FCC was acting outside of its powers.
According to Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post this decision could affect the FCC going forward:
The so-called net neutrality rule, imposed by former FCC chairman Kevin Martin, comes just days before the agency accepts final comments on a separate open Internet regulatory effort this Thursday. And the agency will be faced with a steep legal challenge going forward as it attempts to convert itself from a broadcast- and phone-era agency into one that draws new rules for the Internet era.
The decision could also be a stumbling block in the FCC's plan to implement a national broadband network.
The full text of the report is available in .pdf.