Court Ruling Will Stall FCC's Broadband Plan

By David Bruggeman
April 7, 2010

Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled in a case involving the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) efforts to sanction Comcast for violating the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The court decided in favor of Comcast. While the ruling did not speak to the FCC’s recently announced national broadband plan, it did rule that the Commission lacked the authority to regulate Internet providers. The Commission had argued that Comcast violated the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which were set up in 2005. Comcast argued that the FCC lacked the authority to enforce those rules. Internet service is considered an information service in terms of regulation, which gives the FCC less regulatory authority compared to its ability to regulate telecommunications services.

This decision suggests that some kind of change (or appeal of the case) will need to take place in order for the Commission to proceed with its plans to revamp the provision of broadband services in the United States. There is still resistance to this kind of move, even though the quality of broadband services in the United States does not compare favorably to service in other countries around the world. It may come down to a policy fight over whether or not – as the broadband plan envisions – broadband service is not so much a consumer good as a needed service like other public utilities.