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‘Net Ruling Will Force FCC To Find New Authority

4/12/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — While attorneys try to figure out
the Federal Communications Commission’s next
move, network neutrality activists are pushing
the regulator to take whatever means necessary
to assert its authority over the Internet.

That’s because a three-judge panel of the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week
unanimously concluded the commission did
not have the authority, at least the authority it
asserted, to prohibit Comcast’s past impeding
of BitTorrent peer-to-peer traffic.

The decision did not come as a big surprise after
oral argument in the case in January, when
the judges gave the FCC attorney a tough time.
The ruling generated a torrent of comment from
networks pledging their undying love for an unfettered
Internet.

The victory for Comcast and other network operators
could result in the FCC, aided by Congress,
establishing clearer regulatory authority over the
Internet. The agency might even assert the ability
to mandate third-party access to broadband capacity
and to set third-party rates.

The FCC might need to establish clearer authority
if it wants to go ahead with plans to expand
and codify the Internet access principles.

The commission has said a free and open Internet
is a key to the national broadband plan.

For more analysis, reaction and a look at what
could happen, see Rules.

September